From James Hoskins

image07To get a cello through the ~18″ portal into the Tank, I had to use a Knilling “Portacello” that I’d purchased in Hollywood decades ago to enable me to practice quietly in an apt. there. It’s a skinny, rectangular version of a cello that looks like something Picasso would’ve painted in Cubist fashion. I had a violin-maker trick it out with new strings and endpin, and replace the bridge and tailpiece with ones that he’d removed from a Chinese cello he’d upgraded. It still didn’t sound like a great instrument under normal circumstances, but with the Tank surround-ing it, essentially becoming a 70′ x 30′ resonating chamber, it was pretty awesome!

Michael Stanwood, Jesse Manno, and I spent the whole weekend there – with Jesse and me sleeping in the Tank at night – plugging the Portal with extra coats, blankets, and pillows to keep the wind from howling through so much. Even so, there was an amazing soundscape that happened from the high winds that blew through that weekend. It was also impossible to keep the stringed instruments in tune there, as temperatures and conditions fluctuated continuously.

We brought quite an array of sound generating items: didjeridoo, bouzouki, oud, flutes, zurna, percussion, our voices, and my favorite inadvertent instrument: my blue tennis shoes – that when I shuffled around the tank in them they made bird-like squeals! Jesse recorded them, then later slowed the recording down to use in a Butoh style dance score.

We’d brought in all the recording equipment, but due to some shift in regulations, we were not able to string an electric cable from across the street for power. We had to run probably ~500 ft of extension cord to a barn that luckily another neighbor allowed us to use!

It was so worth it though when I started to improvise on the cello in the Tank. Notes would hang in the air, swirl around, and interact with each other in a unique and beautiful way – creating chords that would form sequentially rather than through being played all at once. I later used some of those pieces in an album of Solo Cello Improvisations, and they remain some of the most interesting and evocative creations of mine. Environmentally Induced Composition thanks to the magic of the Tank!

The working environment of the Tank is, to say the least, bizarre. Spoken communication is difficult due to the endless reverberation. W e h a d t o s p e a k v e r y s p a r s e l y t o b e u n d e r s t o o d! It was an exercise in meditative stillness when someone else was playing and recording, as everything that was audible carried on and on and on…

The sound dynamics are like no other place I’ve ever been. Partially due to the cylindrical shape, and the opening to the outside at the top. I would stand next to the wall while a didj was being played and hear the sound race around the circumference of the tank and flow over me like waves at the beach!

I’ve only gotten to be at the Tank once. It was definitely a shamanic-like experience in time/space/sound/ consciousness shifting. I so dearly hope the kickstarter campaign allows the structure to continue to exist, and provide others with the opportunity to experience its magic for themselves, and for me to return to the Tank to create again!

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