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Saturday 5 July 2008

Water Towers and Music

In 2007 the cult indie band British Sea Power came to Freston near Ipswich to record songs for their next album and shoot a video in the 1950's water tower there. They discovered that it had unique acoustic qualities, like a cathedral, with a sixteen second reverberation. Apparently they found the tower for rent on the internet. The former owners had tried for years to attract investment to convert it into a recording studio before they sold it on to a developer who now hopes to build apartments there. Those plans look interesting. They will have a fantastic view over the Orwell River and have a roof garden where the tank was.

Water towers have influenced many musicians. The American harmonic overtone singer Jim Cole records in a 120' tall metal water tower. "Because of the heavy reverberation, utter silence and pitch blackness offered, singing in a water tower was ideal..." he says.“You hear everything in super slow motion,” and as metal towers can be made to resonate and become an instrument as well, he found in his tower there was between 20 and 30 seconds of reverberation.

In Seattle, the
Volunteer Park Water Tower was made into a 'sonic installation' by an outfit called Audible Semaphore
who composed pieces to accompany the views from the top of the tower.
This tower, although not particularly distinctive architecturally, is a very popular tourist destination and a cultural landmark for residents.

In 1975, the first album released on Brian Eno's Obscure record label was Gavin Bryar's 'The Sinking of the Titanic' which was recorded in a Napoleonic water tower in Bourges, the atmospheric effect o

f the tower's acoustics adding greatly to the watery themes of the music, according to critics.

Do you know any other instances of music made in water towers? Please get in touch.

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