form the cistern

by Bryan Eubanks

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The perceptual ’something‘ is always in the middle of something else, it always forms part of a ‚field‘.
– Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception

The cistern at Fort Warden State Park is one of the worlds most unique acoustic sites. It is a circular (cylindrical) cement structure 14′ (4.2m) in height and 200′ (61m) in diameter. Located underground, it sits on top of a hill overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca on the Olympic Peninsula in North America. It was originally built to store water for the military installation housing the heavy artillery which was once installed nearby. Its an absolutely beautiful location and an entirely unparallelled acoustic experience.

The cistern possesses an almost 45 second decay, and since it also has rectangular concrete supports every 12′ (3.6m) there is a wide variety of diffraction, refraction, and reflection phenomena that influence the behavior of sound. Not only does sound generated in the space reverberate, but because of the small square entrance and a small pipe the cistern functions as a large resonator for the entire environment, allowing the voices of passing tourists and the sounds of airplanes overhead into the space.

Having done preliminary work during the summer of 2010 and also in the spring of 2011, I returned to the cistern in August of 2012 with material prepared for, and tailored to, the unique acoustics of this place. I learned some things about the space on these first visits and for this third visit I had made a rough calculation of the resonant frequency of the cistern (excluding the concrete posts from the equation) determining it to be about 0.91hz. Higher partials of this frequency were used as the basis for the pieces presented here.

Over the next year I used this material to compose a series of pieces focused on different, and specific, phenomena in the space. I wanted to explore, and compose with, the unique acoustic character of the cistern, but not end up with only site specific documents of this rare environment. I feel that the quality of reverberation, and the way in which the space responded in real time to the sounds I placed in it, could not be reproduced with any artificial means. On the contrary, the very circular nature of the cistern can be heard in these three pieces.


released September 21, 2015



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Gruenrekorder Frankfurt, Germany

Gruenrekorder is a German record label for field recording, soundscapes and sound art. It was founded in 2003 by the sound artists Lasse-Marc Riek and Roland Etzin in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The releases are mainly published on CD and Vinyl, but they are also distributed on Tape as well as in digital formats (USB-Card USB flash drives, WAV/MP3/FLAC). ... more

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