102.9 Sounds You Never Hear

In collaboration with Jon Rubin

102.9 FM “Sounds You Never Hear” was a radio transmission experiment created by Jon Rubin and John Peña in a vacant building in Homestead in Pennsylvania. This 8-block radius low-wattage transmission broadcasted rare and obscure field recordings that one would normally never hear in on the radio.

102.9 FM takes its inspiration from the history of the building, which in the late 40’s was the site of a radio station that hosted DJ Porky Chedwick. Porky was one of the first DJs in the country to play African American music (gospel, blues, R&B and jazz) on popular radio. In this spirit, 102.9 sought to challenge the redundancy of popular media by presenting a model for radio as a site for rare and first-time discoveries.

The first sound being transmitted was a field recording of “A Dusky Seaside Sparrow (Extinct)” which played on a constant loop. This particular sparrow went extinct in 1987 and as 102.9 FM’s first broadcast it presents a metaphorical relationship to the now extinct steel-industry that once surrounded the vacant Homestead building.

The second broadcast was a field recording of the confluence of the three major rivers in downtown Pittsburgh. The sign read, “Where the 3 Rivers Meet Underwater.” In this instance, the idea was to record and present a sound that is local and familiar in presence yet was something that one would never normally hear. Equally absurd was the fact that the Rubin and Peña with the help of undergraduate Jonny Minard kayaked to the spot where the three rivers met, dropped an underwater microphone and gathered their recordings. In November 2007, Peña and Rubin were forced to shut down their broadcast by the FCC. (This project was hosted by the Steel Valley Arts Council)