Rangely's new performance venue
Rangely's new performance venue

A Water Tower Takes On A New Life. What Next, Silos?

The Tank, as everyone calls it, still looms over Rangely in rusty majesty, looking a bit like Devil's Tower. Late one afternoon in June, Odland welcomed me there.

He’s a wavy-haired sixty-five-year-old, with the sunny manner of an undefeated hippie idealist. In recent years, he and others have renovated the Tank, turning it into a performance venue and a recording studio; it’s now called the Tank Center for Sonic Arts and is outfitted with a proper door. “Go on, make some noise,” Odland told me.

When my eyes had adjusted to the gloom—a few portals in the roof provide shafts of light during the day—I picked up a rubber-coated hammer and banged a pipe.

The sound rang on and on: the reverberation in the space lasts up to forty seconds. But it’s not a cathedral-style resonance, which dissipates in space as it travels. Instead, sound seems to hang in the air, at once diffused and enriched.

The combination of a parabolic floor, a high concave roof, and cylindrical walls elicits a dense mass of overtones from even a footfall or a cough.

I softly hummed a note and heard pure harmonics spiraling around me as if I had multiplied into several people who could sing. 

A few minutes later, actual singers, in the form of the nine-person vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, arrived.

They had come to the Tank to make a recording and give a concert. They specialize in contemporary music and gained notice when one of their members, the composer Caroline Shaw, won a 2013 Pulitzer Prize for her piece “Partita for 8 Voices,” which she wrote for Roomful.

The ensemble exploits a wide range of sounds, from ethereal harmonies to guttural cries and yelps.

That evening, the singers laid down tracks and rehearsed for the concert, which would take place the following night.

They knew in advance that the Tank would favor slower-moving, more static repertory. Quick chord shifts can create momentary chaos; to compensate, Roomful’s director, Brad Wells, slowed the tempo.

Alex Ross, A water tank turned music venue—The New Yorker

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