Tower Thunder: A photo safari in which Liza and I go to a ranch to hear loud acoustic music in a cylindrical concrete tower.

Last Sunday, Liza and I went on a little road trip up to Sonoma County. I took photos. We were heading up to the Oliver Ranch in Geyserville where philanthropist Steve Oliver displays his privately curated sculpture collection and does various charitable work. Our destination was a benefit concert for the Petaluma Educational Foundation school music programs, the once only performance of a site-specific, commissioned work entitled Tower Thunder.

The 100-acre Oliver Ranch is an “invitation only” exclusive art destination, home to 18 remarkable site-specific commissioned art installations, the most recent of which is Ann Hamilton’s Tower.

According to the Oliver Ranch website, the tower “was the realization of Hamilton’s desire to go beyond the ephemeral nature of much of her oeuvre and create a work of performance of her own design, a solid but living conduit for an ever-changing range of sensory projects and performances. The tower is Hamilton’s first permanent installation anywhere in the world. It took 3-1/2 years to complete, after 14 years of discussion and design.

The Tower is a unique, acoustic environment and a new type of entertainment space defined by two staircases built in a double helix form. One entrance and staircase is for the audience and the other is for the performers. Each staircase is composed of 128 steps that provides seating for the audience. Several openings in the wall allow the body to inhabit the thickness of the wall while in repose. As such, the audience staircase could seat as many as 150 individuals, however 100-125 is the most comfortable. Each performance in the tower are made available by the Oliver Ranch Foundation to benefit non-profit organizations.

The piece du jour, Tower Thunder, was composed by the Central Ohio Symphony’s principal tubist, Anthony Zilincik (seen with hands on railing in my pic below) who is an artist-in-residence at Oliver Ranch.

Tower Thunder a droning, often atonal atmospheric work was written for tubas, percussion, and electronic keyboard, which seems to combine Mr. Zilincik’s (admitted) fondness for the work of Pauline Oliveros, and a probably not intended touch of the Stravinsky-esque side of Jerry Goldsmith’s score from Planet Of The Apes. (Maybe it’s the drums). The work was performed by the Tower Ensemble featuring improvisation by some really gifted Petaluma music students. The musician lined one ring of the two-ringed spiral staircase, and the audience was on the other ring, all the way up and down the tower.

Tower Thunder was written especially for the space and was truly an experience for the senses. Tuba drones that sounded like approaching bombers, and those thundering drums.

Percussionist Christopher Froh on the spiral stairs.

I was really happy that Liza had thought of coming up and it was nice for us to share this musical experience.

And we availed ourselves of the grounds at Oliver Ranch, seeing a few sculpures such as Robert Stackhouse’s “Russian River Bones” (1989).


After a wonderfully inspiring day mingling art and nature, we barreled home across the Richmond Bridge at sunset, Liza driving as I reflected on the day’s memory in our rearview mirror.

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2 Responses to “Tower Thunder: A photo safari in which Liza and I go to a ranch to hear loud acoustic music in a cylindrical concrete tower.”

  1. I just saw your blog! I am glad you enjoyed your time at the Ranch and in the Tower! I certainly did!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the concert! It was certainly wonderful to present!

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