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Audio artist to develop sound collages on Homer's oral history

A small radio sits on a windowsill inside the Bunnell Street Art
Andrew O'Connor
A small radio sits on a windowsill inside the Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer

If you’re walking through Old Town or along Bishop’s Beach in Homer, you might be stopped by Andrew O’Connor, a radio storyteller who’s collecting ambient sound and personal accounts of the town. The audio collages produced will be broadcast on a loop via four or five low-cost, low-watt transmitters positioned around the city. Each transmitter will be placed with permission in locations relevant to the narratives collected and will broadcast several hundred feet outward, all on the same frequency.

“They’re set up in a way so that as you walk through the landscape, and you walk through Homer, different transmitters fall in and out of range, and you hear this unique collage of sounds and stories that you sort of walk through as you engage with the landscape,” O'Connor said.

O’Connor has a background in music composition and has freelanced as a radio producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He also runs a small pirate radio station in his hometown of Toronto.

Although many radio stories follow an organized flow, O’Connor says his project allows him to tell stories in a less structured way. He says projects like these are an opportunity to combine his creative and technical passions he’s unable to through freelance outlets.

“Thinking a lot about ideas of contemporary music and storytelling, I sort of came up with this practice where I just immersed myself in a location and record the sounds and the people, and collect all this material, and create a structure that just sort of plays 24/7 that people can experience in any direction, in any way they want," O'Connor said. "It’s a narrative project with no fixed order.” 

This is the third project of its kind for O’Connor. He’s produced similar audio narratives in Dawson City, Yukon, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

O’Connor says Homer has a wide array of oral histories, which makes it a perfect spot for the project. So far, he’s interviewed about 20 people, both on the street and in sit-down formats.

“For this project to work, it really needs to be in a community where people are very much connected to their surroundings and to the landscape," O'Connor said. "Homer is certainly that place.” 

The physical locations of the project’s radio transmitters have not been determined. O’Connor says that will depend on the audio narratives collected.

Wherever they’re placed, O’Connor hopes the project will help people engage with Homer’s history and memories.

“The buildings, the trees, the rivers, the beach, they resonate with personal experience, and memories and stories," he said. "They’re unique to each person, but I think unite us as a whole, as well.” 

The audio storytelling project is set to begin broadcasting at the end of the month and will air throughout the summer. For more information about the project or its workshops, visit the Bunnell Street Art Center’s website.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL