A sonic wonder discovered in a steel silo

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RANGELY, Colorado — Located in the high desert of northwest Colorado, Rangely’s town sign reads "Way Outside of Ordinary" and that includes what appears to be a typical-looking water tank.

For decades, even the residents had no idea there was anything special about it.

“I never really drove up here myself. I drove by it,” explained Rangely resident Elaine Urie, who originally wanted to see the abandoned silo sold for scrap metal. Then she stepped inside and said it, “captured my heart.”

The giant piece of rusting steel holds a secret, sonic wonderland. Sounds swirl, shift, reverberate longer and richer than inside the Taj Mahal, according to sound artist Bruce Odland. “It’s magical,” he said.

Constructed from half-inch steel, 65-feet tall and 40-feet wide, "The Tank" was placed in a gravel pit by mistake and sank, which caused the floor to curve.

“That’s why the echo is so even without slapping back. No flutter,” explained Odland who first heard about The Tank in 1976. “We would just sneak in illegally and make our recordings in the dark.”

As word of mouth spread, musicians made the journey. A few years ago, when the Tank faced the possibility of heading to the scrap yard, musicians and residents banded together to save it.

The Tank Center for the Sonic Arts officially opened last summer. It offers an audio laboratory for musicians, sound artists and anyone who wants to experience the sensation of sound.

The Tank also transforms into an intimate setting for concerts. “I found myself rewriting a lot of the music that I had ideas for my own solo set to fit the space with electronics,” said composer and violist Jessica Meyer.

The Grammy-winning vocal group Roomful of Teeth spent a week at The Tank recording a track for their new album. “To be singing in a place where the place itself plays such a central role in the performance was totally unique,” said director Brad Wells. “It was like this natural amplification with this natural space.”

To the residents of Rangely, The Tank is much more than a towering, acoustical wonder. It’s become a symbol of hope in a town that went bust after the oil boom a few years back.

“I think to see something that has been useless for so long really become useful gives a person hope,” Nielsen said.

The Tank is open and free to the public every Saturday through October and is also available for recording sessions.


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