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RANGELY I Days of Sonic Learning activities for more than 100 Rangely children, senior citizens and college students took place at The TANK Center for Sonic Arts Sept. 25-27, followed by Grammy-award winning artist Rinde Eckert performing in the space Friday, Sept. 30.
Margaret Hunt of Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) and Robert Wertz of Etcom, Inc. contributed to The TANK’s successful drive to open the sound space to the public last February, with support for the outreach programs an associated “perk” for their $1,000 contributions.
Sound artist Bruce Odland and musician Lois LaFond, along with community volunteers and leaders at Parkview Elementary School, Eagle Crest Assisted Living and Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC), brought Days of Sonic Learning to fruition.
“It’s been the dream of The TANK all along to function in multiple ways,” Odland said. “To open itself to the community, which it does on Open Saturdays, to participate with young people learning about the world through their ears, to tie kids into the community and its history … The TANK proves itself to be a wonderful schoolyard for that sort of thing.”
For Odland, sessions with Eagle Crest residents and college students held other lessons.
“We enjoyed working with people from Eagle Crest Assisted Living and finding out the design we have accommodates wheelchairs, and that the joy of sharing sounds inside The TANK reaches deep inside people of all ages,” he said. “It was also great to work with CNCC students, where we could go more into the science of sound, go further with making compositions in The TANK with them.
“That the place is intergenerational and it seems to reach lots of different ages and purposes is something we’ve hoped for.”
While the content and tenor of each session varied, participants learned something of The TANK’s history, some basics of sound theory and ways to use voices and instruments effectively before entering the reverberant sound space.
Once in The TANK, groups had a few moments to experiment freely before Odland or LaFond led them in exercises, from students “conducting” their peers in spontaneously-composed pieces to assisted living residents listening to impromptu songs created around their names.
At one point, a marimba children assembled from two thin wooden posts and varying lengths of two-by-fours got performance time in The TANK.
Fourth-grader Landon Carlson, who first experienced The TANK a couple of weeks before the class session, said his conceptions of the space had changed.
“I kind of thought it was a place where people partied and stuff, but it wasn’t like that,” Carlson said. “People were doing solos the first time I went….My first idea was that (The TANK) echoes and that you can make random sounds and the echoes would come out really cool.”
Carlson’s return during Days of Sonic Learning held more observations and takeaways.
“The TANK used to not be there, and it was built for trains and railroads,” he said. “Once we went in again, I liked the drums because they made loud music sounds. I like the loudness.”
He said an exercise in which LaFond encouraged students to layer different animal noises on top of each other was also a favorite.
Participants like Lisa Hatch, who coordinated the Parkview student sessions, helped kids explore The TANK’s history by using the “Rio Grande” insignia and mixing shed outline as clues to its former use as a water-softening station during the railroad’s steam era. Volunteer Corina Cortez assembled student groups outside and inside The TANK with her didgeridoo.
“I was struck how wonderful it was to just listen to Rangely,” said volunteer Leslie Nielsen, who worked with students throughout the sessions. “The peace it brought to silence ourselves in this very plugged-in, noisy world was truly refreshing.”
Friday night, Grammy-award winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated multidisciplinary artist Rinde Eckert played in the space with a variety of instruments, his voice among them, which mimicked, at various points, flutes, stringed instruments and horns. Eckert said he intends to return to The TANK for more exploration.
“To round out the week with a very high-end performance by an internationally known composer/performer is also part of the vision for The TANK,” Odland said. “It’s for all these things. That we can pursue all these levels of interaction for The TANK, that they all seem to fit—this is part of the dream.”