One man recording the sound of every town in N.J. [photos]

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Wagenblast still announces traffic in New York City on weekends. He’s also the voice of the announcements on New York subway platforms. But the lifelong resident of northern New Jersey has a very ambitious side project: to “capture a unique sound for each one of the municipalities in the state of New Jersey.”

Bernie Wagenblast is one of those people who’s been working in radio so long that his radio voice and his regular speaking voice have melded.

“From when I was a kid,” he explains, “I always wanted to be in radio. So audio, as a result, has always had a certain fascination with me.”

Wagenblast still announces traffic in New York City on weekends. He’s also the voice of the announcements on New York subway platforms. But the lifelong resident of northern New Jersey has a very ambitious side project: to “capture a unique sound for each one of the municipalities in the state of New Jersey.”

All 565 of them.

“I don’t want a sound, necessarily, of a refinery that somebody says, ‘Oh, I see that all the time as I drive through on the turnpike,'” Wagenglast says, “or just the sound of the seashore that people are familiar with, but what is a unique sound from the seashore that people may not necessarily associate with New Jersey?”

Florence Township

Today, Wagenblast has come to Florence Township to New Jersey’s only company town of Roebling, which he last visited in the 1980s. That was when he first saw its rows of identical houses that once housed the company’s employees.

“We went to the pizzeria on a Friday night, and I was amazed when I found this town,” he said.

Back in the day, the Roebling steel mill made steel cables that turn up in a surprising number of the technological feats of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Roebling produced the wiring for the Wright brothers’ airplane and then for Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, for Otis elevators and the original Slinky toy.

The company also produced the steel cables for suspension bridges.

The actor Daniel Radcliffe is set to star in an upcoming movie as Washington Roebling, who was tragically crippled by caissons disease overseeing construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The company went on to supply the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

For his audio clip here, Wagenblast chooses a tour guide at the Roebling Museum located in an old factory office. Here he’s describing life in the company homes:

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Manchester

Many Americans experience New Jersey as drive-through country between New York and somewhere else. Wagenblast has set out on this quest to define the unique identity of every part of the state.

For Pilesgrove, he’s planning to record New Jersey’s only rodeo. In Manchester, he has a clip of the radio broadcast from when the Hindenburg burst into flames.

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West Windsor

For West Windsor, it’s the Martians landing in the “War of the Worlds” broadcast

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Delaware Township

Delaware Township is the sound of cars rolling over New Jersey’s last covered bridge.

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Asbury Park

And, of course there’s Asbury Park, home of Bruce.

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In just under a year, Wagenblast had collected sounds from almost 100 New Jersey townships.

“If I take 565 and do 100 a year, I should be finished in a little under six years,” he said. “Although I have a feeling when I get down to those last 100 or 200 it could be a little bit more of a challenge.”

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