In 1976, when its unique acoustic potential was first recognized by Bruce Odland, The TANK — an empty steel water tank in Rangely, Colorado — began its secret life as a recording destination for a dedicated group of musicians. When, in 2012, The TANK was in danger of being sold for scrap, that group of musicians formed Friends of The TANK (FOTT) to save this unique sonic resource.
To that end, FOTT ran a successful Kickstarter Campaign in 2013, raising more than $46,000 from 750 backers, worldwide. With the invaluable support of volunteers from all over the country, as well as members of Rangely and Rio County government, many Rangely area residents, and local businesses, those funds were used to secure The TANK and its land, to begin to renovate and rehabilitate The TANK, and to gain legal certification from Rio Blanco County.
Over a period of three years, FOTT installed electrical service, ventilation, and lighting; built an access road and parking lot; cut a full-size door for legal access and to accommodate large instruments; sealed and painted the floor and walls, built a deck, installed safety fencing, and provided sanitary facilities. FOTT successfully petitioned for a Change of Use permit from storage facility to assembly hall and, once the renovations brought the facility up to meet international code, The TANK received its Certificate of Occupancy. All of this and more was accomplished almost entirely by volunteers.
During Rangely’s Septemberfest 2015, an Open House at The TANK drew musicians, performers, and visitors from Rangely, Denver, Vernal (Utah), and beyond. Spontaneous jam sessions, a workshop with homeschool students, two concerts at the local elementary school, many hours of sonic exploration by local residents, and a free concert came together at The TANK that weekend. A few weeks later, The Flobots visited The TANK as part of “Detour,” a pilot program from Colorado Creative Industries and the Colorado Office of Economic Development. Even before its official opening, The TANK was already known, talked about, and visited by people in the region, and fast became a signature element of the Western Slope.
During the Solstice week of June 21, 2016, Kickstarter backers, Rangely supporters, and Friends of The TANK gathered together to open The TANK Center for Sonic Arts. The week was filled with Open Houses at The TANK, a Deep Listening Workshop, dinner and a concert for backers and volunteers, a Kickstarter reward concert, and a concert that was open to the public and filled to overflowing. That week saw the kick-off to Open Saturdays at The TANK, where the public is welcome to enjoy, explore, and experience The TANK every Saturday, at no cost, from 9am – 1pm and 6-9 pm, through October.
May 1, 2017 saw the opening day of Season Two at The TANK Center for Sonic Arts. In late May, a team of volunteers, led by Mark Fuller and Bruce Odland, gave the Control Room an acoustical makeover and installed new equipment to make our recording studio at The TANK state-of-the-art. TANK “Gurus” Bob Burnham, Greg Heimbecker, and Tom Wasinger — audio engineers who know and have recorded in The TANK — did double-duty recording our “Day at The TANK” Kickstarter backers while training local sound engineers in the particularities of recording at The TANK. These sound engineers will be hired by musicians recording at The TANK in the future.
Open Saturdays at The TANK began again at the beginning of the season, with Samantha Wade introducing people to The TANK.
In June, Sound Circle, an a cappella women’s ensemble from Boulder, came to record at The TANK, and gave a free concert for the community to kick off our Summer Solstice Celebrations. We had our first Open Mic at The TANK, to rave reviews. On June 18th, Frank Westcott and Kim Deschamps gave a terrific open-air concert outside The TANK while the audience enjoyed barbecue provided by Giovanni’s Grill, under aerial sculptures by George Peters and Melanie Walker of Airworks in Boulder. That night there was a gathering in The TANK for “Ring the Bells That Still Can Ring,” featuring a titanium nosecone donated to The TANK, with conducted bellringing by all.
Roomful of Teeth, a GRAMMY-winning vocal project dedicated to mining the expressive potential of the human voice, came to record at The TANK for the week of June 19th. They brought together TANK resident artist Rinde Eckert, violist and composer Jessica Meyer, and composer Michael Harrison for our Solstice Concert. For the first time, thanks to speakers donated to us by Meyer Sound (no relation to Jessica), the sound from inside The TANK was projected outside and across the hills.
July has seen more artists recording at The TANK, with Elaine diFalco leading a Deep Listening Workshop and visiting artist Christina Ivanna performing for children and parents in Elks Park as part of their experience in Rangely. The TANK Center for Sonic Arts and the town of Rangely are committed to the cross-pollination of art and the community, and to creating a culture of listening. Visitors who are here to use The TANK are invited to give a workshop, have a community sing, create a piece about Rangely, take some Rangely residents to a nearby place of sonic interest, show a film, perform for the town, visit the schools, have a found-object instrument building session, lead a listening workshop… or they can come up with their own ideas. While this isn’t a requirement of their time at The TANK, we are deeply committed to including the community in our activities. The people of Rangely have a great deal to offer, and we like to return the favor by sharing what’s going on at The TANK. (And interacting with the community means a discount on recording fees!)
Our Community Outreach Committee has been busy with our visiting artists’ events and a Second Annual DOLSA (Days of Learning about Sonic Arts) event for Rangely’s Elder population. In August, they will have events for fourth and fifth graders at The TANK, and a gathering for veterans.
Grande River Vineyards will host a concert to benefit The TANK Center for Sonic Arts, featuring Carlos Nakai. Of Navajo-Ute heritage, Mr. Nakai is the world’s premier performer of the Native American flute. (We hope we can entice him to visit The TANK, and maybe even perform and record here, sometime in the future.)
There’s more on tap for Season Two, much of it still in the planning stages. But it’s clear we have a vibrant and important acoustical landmark that is attracting people from around the world.
Friends of The TANK and The TANK Center for Sonic Arts are currently in transition from a completely volunteer effort to a more sustainable organization, with an Executive Director, Operations Manager, and Assistant Audio Engineer. Conceived as a hub of international/local collaboration and sonic experiences, The TANK Center for Sonic Arts provides a venue for musicians, sound and interdisciplinary artists, architects, sonic thinkers, and other artists and educators from around the world to record, perform, and experience.
Priorities for programming at The TANK Center for Sonic Arts include providing a venue for artists and other sound explorers while utilizing The TANK for education and local participation. The TANK Center for Sonic Arts will be a unique educational resource, with Days of Sonic Learning, local youth and CNCC students receiving training in audio arts by Grammy Award winning engineers, and other activities for local school groups, organizations, institutions of higher learning, and residents. Artist residencies will dovetail with community participation. The TANK Center for Sonic Arts will provide a focal point for music and sound events across Colorado, and Rio Blanco County will share in the success of The TANK Center for Sonic Arts when concerts, workshops, residencies, and sonic tourism bring the world to Rangely’s doorstep.
For more about the history of The TANK, read Waving Hands Review: From Steam Age to World Music Stage The History of Rangely’s “Tank” by Heather Zadra.