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A True Acoustic Thrill!

Ars Nova Singers was thrilled to perform a concert on Saturday evening, June 3, in Rangely, CO at The TANK Center for Sonic Arts. An added bonus was the full Strawberry Moon rising in the east as the choir sang a selection of pieces from our April concert program. A venue for “acoustic thrill-seekers,” The Tank was constructed around 1940 as a railroad water-treatment facility. The seven-story Corten steel water tank was moved to Rangely in the mid-1960s for use as part of a fire-suppression system for the local utility company. The plan was never realized, though, as the underlying shale proved unable to support the weight of the filled tank. So it remained empty.  However, the bed of gravel upon which the tank was placed bowed its floor into a gentle parabola, giving it an extraordinary internal acoustical resonance.

In 1976, sound artist Bruce Odland was shown the place by two Rangely locals.  Odland understood immediately that he had stumbled upon a treasure. “I’d never heard anything like it,” he said. “I’d never heard a sound last that long, with these dizzyingly beautiful reverberation effects going all over the place.”  For decades after Odland’s discovery, The Tank remained a secret performance and recording space for a dedicated group of sound artists and musicians.

Then in 2013, when The Tank’s existence was threatened–the owner considered selling it for scrap–these artists and others responded, forming a group called Friends of The Tank, which included volunteers from all over the country, as well as members of Rangely and Rio Blanco County governments, many Rangely area residents, and local businesses.

Two Kickstarter campaigns and many donations from individuals enabled the group to secure The Tank and its land; install electrical service, ventilation, and lighting; build an access road and parking lot; cut a full size door for legal access and to accommodate large instruments for the first time; seal and paint the floor and walls, construct a deck, install safety fencing, and provide sanitary facilities.  They then petitioned for a Change of Use permit from storage facility to public assembly hall and, once the renovations brought the facility up to international code, The Tank received its Certificate of Occupancy.  Further funding from individual donations funded an executive director position and enabled the group to hire others to staff the facility.  The Tank’s first grant, from the Boettcher Foundation, purchased a state-of-the-art recording studio, housed in a shipping container next to the Tank.

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 as part of “Detour,” a pilot program from Colorado Creative Industries and the Colorado Office of Economic Development. Even before this 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.

In 2017, its third season of operation, The Tank hosted dozens of reserved visits, recording sessions, artist residencies, and performances, including dates by Rinde Eckert, Jessica Meyer, and the Grammy-winning vocal group Roomful of Teeth, along with many local events.

The Tank also began to receive acclaim in Colorado and beyond.  Writing in the New Yorker after witnessing a performance in The Tank, Alex Ross was ecstatic. “In my experience,” he wrote,  “music has never seemed closer to nature.”  The Los Angeles Times covered the place in detail.  “Forget Carnegie Hall. Musicians rush to rural Colorado to play The Tank” was the headline.  “One road to the musical future,” wrote Alex Ross, “now runs through Rangely.”