A Surrey-born composer is celebrating a Juno Award he won for music recorded in a unique space now filled with water.
Jordan Nobles’ “Immersion,” named Classical Composition of the Year at the recent awards gala in Ottawa, was performed by nine musicians of Negative Zed inside the so-called Break Head Tank, a huge concrete bunker located at the Capilano works yard in North Vancouver.
The sloped, chambered tank – described on the Redshift Records website as “high-vaulted subterranean passageways of some Tolkien-inspired superstructure” – is connected to a seven-kilometre tunnel that carries water from the Capilano reservoir to a filtration plant.
“The tank had this amazing reverb,” recalled Nobles. “It was all kind of silent down there, with no cables, no electricity, no lights or anything. The only thing you could hear is the water fall at the dam, far away. So someone decided to have a musical performance in there, in this space, before they filled it with water.”
Any hopes of a public concert in the tank were drowned by safety concerns, so Noble and the others went to work recording the four-part, 27-minute “Immersion” on their own in October 2015, in collaboration with Metro Vancouver. Audio and video productions of the recording were released in 2016.
“They basically gave me free reign to do what I wanted down there for the recording, so we went with nine musicians,” Nobles, a Deep Cove resident, told the Now-Leader. “But I honestly could have done it with one, you know – one saxophone player or something, because you could play one note in there and it would hang in the air forever. It was great.”
Prior to the creation of his “Immersion,” Surrey Symphony Society commissioned Nobles to compose “Space and Time,” which was performed by Surrey Youth Orchestra at both Surrey City Hall and the adjacent City Centre Library in February 2015. More than 100 young musicians, along with their audience, moved from one atrium to the other for the two-part concert, a project that aimed “to make Canadian orchestral music accessible to a wider public for free, and to celebrate two unique cultural spaces in Surrey.”
Since the recording of “Immersion,” which was done in a single day and with no overdubs, the Break Head Tank has been filled with three million litres of water.
“Maybe you can taste our music in the water everyone drinks, I’m not sure,” Nobles said with a laugh.
“That particular space is gone for, like, 100 years,” he added. “They might drain and clean it, or whatever, eventually, and maybe they’ll do another recording, or maybe a concert, at that time, but we probably won’t be around to hear it.”