The Inchindown Tunnels

As I mentioned in my first post, I’m currently working on new compositions inspired by the underground tunnels / oil tanks in Inchindown, Scotland. This post will provide some background on this fascinating place & what led me to use their sonic characteristics as a basis for these pieces.


The six tanks & connective tunnels, now disused, were excavated in the hills of Invergordon beginning in 1939 to store fuel for the war effort. The facility is built into several meters of solid rock and the concrete walls are up to 18 inches thick, making it practically bombproof. The tanks remained in use to varying extents long after the war, until the 1980s.

I first heard of the Inchindown tanks via the work of Prof. Trevor Cox, an Acoustic Engineer at the University of Salford. In 2014, while doing research for his book Sonic Wonderland (published as The Sound Book in the U.S.), Prof. Cox brought a team into the facility to conduct sound experiments. In the process, they established a new world record for longest reverberation: 112 seconds. (The previous record, established in 1970, was 15 seconds.)

Not the record-setter, but you can listen to a demonstration here.

And for a taste of the musical possibilities, peep this incredible recording on Trevor Cox’s youtube channel.

Upon becoming aware of the Inchindown tunnels & their unique acoustics, my imagination began to run wild. At first, I was interested in the idea of a site-specific piece of music; a soloist performing within the space (like in the recording above), taking advantage of the sustain to create harmonies and rich textures with just a single instrument. But such a piece would have a severely limited lifespan – performed only once and thereafter existing only as a recording. So I began to think – what if I could bring this experience, the sensation of being enveloped in sound from every direction, to a concert hall?

It would be several years before I would have an opportunity to visit the site & focus on this work, during which time these concepts continued to gestate. Over the next few posts, I will begin discussing the different aspects of the ongoing work in more detail, as well as documenting my trip to Scotland in July 2017.



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