The Story Of The Tank And The Sound Of Reverberating Native American Flutes


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Here is the story. In the mid-Sixties the Rio Grande Railroad welded a bunch of curved steel plates together to build a cylindrical water-tank with a pointed-top (sort of like the Tin Man in the “Wizard of Oz”) on a hilltop overlooking the tiny rural town of Rangely, Colorado, a few miles from the border with Utah. Ground stability precluded actually filling it with water so there it sat. There was one glass porthole near the bottom so you could look inside or squeeze through if you were a skinny kid. Of course local youngsters used the place for a hangout and had fun yelling inside because of the incredible echoes as the sound spiraled upwards for more than 60-feet into the dark recesses. In 1976 musician and sound artist Bruce Odland was traveling around Colorado making state-sponsored recordings, and when he got to Rangely the locals made sure to take him inside The Tank where he was amazed by the sonic qualities (especially when his new friends beat on the outside with two-by-fours) and so he made some recordings inside. Soon he invited other musicians to join him there and a door was cut into the side for better access. Almost sold for scrap-metal in 2012, The Tank was sustained by an unlikely coalition of locals and musicians from around the world before finally being owned by a non-profit organization, now known as The TANK Center for Sonic Arts, which built a small recording studio next to tank. The venue has been the site of numerous events and concerts, and the unusual facility has garnered high-profile publicity including a feature on CBS-TV’s “Sunday Morning” show, and articles in New Yorker Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and more. But despite a number of recordings by different genres of musicians, no one had recorded and released an album on a known label with international mainstream distribution until the group Mysteries of the Night came along and recorded their ALIVE INSIDE THE TANK album and put it out on the established label Silver Wave Records, known for its acclaimed new age and Native American recordings. So flutist James Marienthal and his partner Sarah Gibbons (handling vocals -- mostly wordless, hand drums and percussion) journeyed to The Tank and recorded a series of native-sounding improvisations. Marienthal had some melodies ready, and he tried a few inside, but found that the music worked best when he improvised because the dynamics of the space were such that he would play a note or two and let the reverberation go on for several seconds in a beautiful echo-way, and then while those notes were still bouncing back and forth and swirling around and around, he might play a few more notes, perhaps in harmony with the earlier ones, so that, plus the rhythms by Gibbons and her vocalizations, joined the mix echoing on and on and on and on to what feels like a mesmerizing near infinity. The Tank has been portrayed as looking like a rustic 1950s comic-book spaceship ready to take off, and the music made inside for this recording IS very spacey and other-worldly. In addition, the word “Inside” in the album title is probably a subtle and sly reference to the series of INSIDE albums made by flutist and legendary new age pioneer Paul Horn at special-echo sites like the Taj Mahal and The Great Pyramid (which he found did not echo as much as he would have liked although the structure had great presence). But truthfully, despite the fact that those recordings were ground-breaking, breath-taking in their own ways, and formative to new age ambient and improvisational music-making, none of them had the resonating power and ultimate echo sound that Mysteries of the Night found inside The Tank. So get this music and hear these amazing sounds. Get tanked. Tank you very much for listening.