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Science Communication launches Aotearoa Stories in Sound project

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

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Fulbright Specialist and professional sound producer Jim Metzner makes a recording for a previous project.

If there was a soundtrack to represent the stories of Aotearoa, what would it sound like?

Collating sounds and soundscapes that resonate with New Zealanders will be the focus of a new project, Aotearoa Stories in Sound, to be led by Professor Nancy Longnecker of the Centre for Science Communication in collaboration with visiting Fulbright Specialist Jim Metzner and RNZ’s Alison Ballance, both award-winning storytellers.

Aotearoa Stories in Sound will compile sounds across a wide range of natural and cultural environments with the goal to encourage interaction with these sounds and appreciate their value by sharing the stories behind them.

"We hope to collect sounds that are familiar, as well as those that are weird and wonderful. Even sounds that at first seem insignificant can trigger profound memories."

To kickstart the programme locally, people from Otago and Southland are invited to contribute sounds or provide ideas for the project.

“We hope to collect sounds that are familiar, as well as those that are weird and wonderful,” Professor Longnecker says. “Even sounds that at first seem insignificant can trigger profound memories, and we think this project will involve both journeys of reminiscences and new discoveries.”

Fulbright Specialist and professional sound producer Mr Metzner will be hosted by Otago’s Centre for Science Communication during his upcoming six-week visit that also coincides with the International Year of Sound.

Mr Metzner is the producer of award-winning radio series that includes Pulse of the Planet, one of the world’s longest-running short-format science programmes. The programme airs as both a podcast and a radio series, reaching a million listeners every week across 250 radio stations in the US.

“New Zealand is famous the world over for its visual beauty,” says the New York-based producer. “We rarely hear of its sounds and I expect they are no less extraordinary.”

"New Zealand is famous the world over for its visual beauty. We rarely hear of its sounds and I expect they are no less extraordinary."

Crowd-sourced sounds and soundscapes collected will be used in the production of podcasts for Pulse of the Planet and will also be presented to the Dunedin community in a show produced with Alison Ballance for Wild Dunedin’s Festival of Nature in April.

Aotearoa Stories in Sound is asking people to submit recordings, or suggestions for recordings, of sounds that are meaningful to them, with a brief explanation of why the sound is significant.

People can send recordings to the project email (aotearoastoriesinsound@gmail.com) or post on the project’s Facebook group ‘Aotearoa Stories in Sound’ where they can listen to other submissions and the stories behind them.

Mr Metzner says it’s a great honour to be invited to the University of Otago to work with Professor Longnecker and Alison Ballance on this project, and he is looking forward to experiencing the cultural diversity and celebrating the sounds of Aotearoa.

Staff, students and public are also welcome to attend a seminar given by Mr Metzner at the Centre for Science Communication on Thursday 19 March (Room 2.06, Owheo Building, 133 Union St East, Dunedin).