This story originally aired June 25, 2016.
When Stuart Dempster learned about the empty 2-million-gallon water tank on the Olympic Peninsula, he had one thought: he had to make music there. Dempster is a well-known composer and trombonist, an emeritus professor at the University of Washington with a longstanding interest in recording music out in unusual spaces.
The Dan Harpole Cistern at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend was built to store water in case the Peninsula came under siege by Imperial Japan. Since World War II it has sat empty – a massive concrete vault where sound resonates unlike almost anywhere else. Dempster says the reverberations last up to 45 seconds.
The result is a set of unique acoustic performances: the ultimate unplugged albums. Dempster joined host Gabriel Spitzer to talk about deep listening and about collaborating with the structure itself to make otherworldly music.