Tank Masters Series

Singing River
Bruce Odland & Sam Auinger

Single-stringed river harps, played by the flowing water of the Rhine River, produced these serene melodies, which were recorded and then played back into the Tank’s deep resonance to make harmonious tracks, full of peace, wellness, and the power of nature. 

Think of them as Gregorian chant, sung by the river.

Tanksounds · Singing River (O+A Reinharp recordings in the TANK)

For a year O+A – Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger – searched for sounds in the Rhine Valley in Switzerland, near a town called Rheinau, where they were making a healing installation. They recorded everything: rivers and rain, birds and snow, tiny streams and cornfields, crickets and goats. They recorded trees full of blackbirds at dusk and spring birds at dawn. They strung harpsichord wires through the trees to record snowfall and built harps played by the leaves in the wind.

Their favorite activity was to build water harps, to hear the Rhine sing its song.  The river plays the hand-made harp like a bow plays the string of a violin. The river drags the string downstream, and the tension of the string pulls against it, creating a harmonic melody that modulates as the current’s invisible fluctuations dance up and down the string’s overtone series.

Bruce Odland then carried the river songs to Rangely and played them back in the Tank, lifting them into the steel cathedral space and filling it with the resonance and rhythms of nature’s ebb and flow.  

Mastered by Mark Fuller, for The TANK

Bruce Odland is a pioneering sonic thinker. From his earliest “Sun Song” (1977), which broadcast a soundscape from a bell tower in Denver, to proto-sound design for theater with Peter Sellars, JoAnne Akalaitis, Laurie Anderson, and the Wooster Group, to his large scale permanent sound installations with Sam Auinger, transforming city noise into harmony in public space, his work has asked, “What new roles can our ears play in understanding the world?” Bruce’s work has won awards in film, radio, museum exhibition, theater, and digital arts.  He has created installations for Ars Electronica, the Field Museum, the Millennium Commission, Novartis, the City of Zurich and documenta 14.  He spearheaded the transformation of a resonant abandoned water tank in the high desert of Colorado into the internationally known TANK Center for Sonic Arts, bringing together international artists such as Roomful of Teeth and Bill Frisell with a local population of oil workers, teachers, veterans, churchgoers, musicians, and students to support sonic culture and revitalize the local economy.  After hearing the TANK’s resonance, Alex Ross of the New Yorker said, “One road to the musical future now leads through Rangely, Colorado”. 

Sonic thinker, composer and sound artist Sam Auinger was born in Linz, Austria, and lives and works in Linz and Berlin. Together with Bruce Odland, he founded O+A in 1989. Their central theme is hearing perspective. They are known for their permanent sound installations in public space, which transform urban sound in real time, as in the works harmonic bridge at MassMoca and Sonic Vista in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2009, O+A began a discourse on the theme of Sonic Commons with an article in the music journal Leonardo that questioned the dominance of our visual culture in perceiving the world. Since 2000, he has also collaborated with the bassist and composer Hannes Strobl, and the urbanist and media artist Dietmar Offenhuber. Sam has received numerous scholarships and prizes, including the Culture Prize of the City of Linz and the SKE Publicity Prize. He was a guest of the DAAD’s Berlin Artists-in-Residence Programme (berliner theorie) with Rupert Huber, and he held a scholarship at the Cité International des Arts in Paris. In 2010 he became the first City Sound Artist in Bonn, and in 2011 he was featured artist at the Ars Electronica in Linz. From 2008 to 2012, he was Professor at the UdK Berlin and Head of the Department of Experimental Sound Design in the Master’s Program in Sound Studies. From 2013 to 2015, he was an associate at the GSD in Harvard, and in 2017 he was a guest lecturer in the Art Culture and Technology program at MIT. In addition to his artistic work, he collaborates with urban planners and architects, gives lectures and conducts workshops, and frequently participates in international symposia on urban planning, architecture, media, perception and sound.

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