Music Producer & Composer

Three Grammys, hundreds of instruments, millions of ideas...

Contact:tomwas@earthlink.net

Thursday

From the Tank Center for Sonic Arts to Sandy Hook-Two Unexpected Perspectives on Gun Control

On June 24th I set out with a friend for Rangely, CO to perform at the grand opening of The Tank Center for Sonic Arts.  The Tank is a 70 ft. X 40 ft cylindrical steel water tank with wondrous sound reflection characteristics first discovered by composer Bruce Odland in the 1970's. What sets it apart (sonically speaking) from other such water tanks is that when it was set in its current location, the weight of the walls settled into the unstable soil pushing the center of the underside upwards and creating a convex floor. It was a pilgrimage site for Colorado composers and musicians for decades until 2013 when it was in danger of being sold for scrap metal. A Save the Tank effort followed and two Kickstarter campaigns later it has opened to the world.*

One of the objectives of this endeavor was to engage and include the local residents of Rangely so that the Tank could be an artistic resource for the community, as well as a destination for composers and musicians from other parts of the world. This proved to be quite a feat of diplomacy as the politics and world view of this town were very conservative (the economy is primarily oil & gas development and ranching), and the invading artists were anything but. However, the effort became a model for people from very different perspectives coming together in support of a common cause.

The mayor of Rangely invited some of the "Friends of the Tank" to visit his home after the concert the next evening.  He and his wife were very gracious and friendly. After a bit of small talk he gave us a tour of his vault where he kept his guns, including many hunting rifles as well as semi-automatic weapons. Then the tour continued into his trophy room where he had dozens of taxidermied animals on display from New Zealand wapiti to African lionesses.  He then led us to another building outside that housed another room twice the size of the first also filled with trophy animals, including a complete elephant head on one wall. Now it so happens that I had to shoot a rabbit earlier this year who was causing thousand of dollars in damage to our cars, and this left me feeling very uneasy for a day or two, so this display of these magnificent creatures cut down in the prime of their lives made me feel ill.

It's easy to be disgusted by this kind of ostentatious cruelty, but after we left the mayor's residence another member of our party explained that trophy hunters usually pay for licenses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring these animals back to this country, and that these funds are used for the preservation of habitat and to maintain healthy populations of the various species.  Also, it seems to me that since our ancient ancestors had to hunt to survive, that this instinct must still be very present in our DNA, and perhaps we need to be slow to pass judgment even when survival is no longer part of the equation.

36 hours later I was on a plane to New York to perform in a filming of "Shine",  an original musical by the brilliant Beth Osnes that is part of the 100 Resilient Cities Initiative to engage youth voices in sustainable community planning. I had written and recorded most of the score for this theatrical piece but I was there to provide a few live cues and other bits of musical accompaniment.

We were hosted by the supremely talented choreographer/dance team of Arthur Frederic and Lisa Denton at their home in Brookfield, CT. Most of the cast were between the ages of 8 and 17 and since Brookfield is right next door to Newtown, CT, three of the cast members were kids who had lived through the heinous Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in 2012. Arthur and Lisa briefed us on the fact that these young people wanted nothing more than to live normal lives, and that singling them out in any way because of their past was the wrong idea. But more than once while looking in their determined faces during rehearsal trying to execute some not-so-simple dance moves, the knowledge of the unspeakable horror they had been through brought tears to my eyes.

I believe that the myriad freedoms we have in this country come with profound responsibility. Had the mother of the shooter in Sandy Hook kept her guns in a vault (like our friend the mayor of Rangely) she and 26 other worthy souls may still be alive, and this grievous tragedy may have been averted. However, if some gun dealers and gun owners are so thick that they deal with their firearms with no more caution than they give their kitchen cutlery, then perhaps common sense legislation is the only way to keep the horrors of Sandy Hook from happening again. And, I sincerely hope that we as a people can stand up to the absurdly irrational forces that are preventing these changes in our land.

*more Tank info is available at  tanksounds.org