Tiffany Oluoch / Gavel Media

Annette Heffernan Finds Sonic Sanctuary at WZBC

Electronic music has always been a medium of experimentation: a venture into the possibilities of sound, musical textures and combinations, diverse forms, and structures. There is an undercurrent of electronic influence in the songs that energize late nights, fuel long car rides, and motivate intense workouts. Yet oftentimes, listeners are unaware that mainstream dance-floor bangers are the works of innovative producers.

The future of music is undeniably electronic. Remix and sample-based tracks have the overwhelming power to not only move your body, but to stir your emotions as well. The abundance of producer-driven hip-hop and R&B tracks speaks to how this contemporary moment in music has an electronic backbone. WZBC Operations Director and DJ Annette Heffernan, MCAS '19, gives a special nod to this genre for its online origins and collaborative aesthetic.

“I love it because I think it’s so versatile,” she says. “Especially now, and even in more mainstream popular music, you can see that new artists are just electronic producers simply getting more credit for the work they’ve been doing all these years.”

Heffernan hosts an electronic music show for WZBC called Synth-esthesia, on Wednesday nights from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The name of her show is a play on the word “synesthesia,” a perceptual, neurological condition in which a person’s senses are joined. Those who have synesthesia can, for example, hear a certain musical note and see a color, smell a perfume and hear a sound, or see a word and taste a flavor. And for many, the colorful beats of Heffernan’s playlists translate to a kaleidoscope of brilliance and vibrancy.

“I try to keep updated as much as I can and play local as often as I can,” Heffernan explains, “Lately I’ve been playing a lot from artists of the Boston area, like Rilla Force and Radical One. And one I come back to time and time again is an artist called Broski.” Apart from the Boston bubble, Heffernan enjoys Chicago musicians Saba and Amir Tripp and their respective, recently released albums, Care For Me and Pyro. As for all time favorites, she names a few, citing Electric Guest and the early work from ODEZA. “The Black Keys was one of the first bands that I really got into as well.”

In high school, Heffernan was known for her extensive music taste, and thus was entrusted with curating playlists for all of her friends. Upon leaving for college, she was encouraged to join the campus radio station to expose her music knowledge to a larger audience.

Although her roots lie on the warmer coasts of California, Heffernan has planted seeds at Boston College, specifically in the WZBC radio station. “Week one of freshman year, I was like ‘Where’s the radio station? I need to be there,’” she says enthusiastically. “Actually my current roommate [Jackie Foley, MCAS '19] and I were initially co-interns together. I’ve been involved ever since.”

WZBC interns observe and learn from a current DJ at the station for an entire semester. “You basically just hang out with that DJ and get to know them,” Heffernan continues. “They teach you the ropes of the station. It’s a great introduction, especially to do it as a co-intern like Jackie and I did.”

“Jackie and I were kind of intimidated to do a show by ourselves, so we decided to host a show together at 7:00 a.m. during the spring semester of freshman year,” she recalls. “All of our listeners were so kind. During our first show, we mentioned on air that it was our first time hosting, and we had about eight people call in right away to encourage us and tell us we were doing a good job. I’ve been doing a show every semester since freshman year.”

Apart from hosting, Annette Heffernan also fulfills the role of WZBC Operations Director. “I mainly function as a treasurer, but I also make sure day to day things run smoothly, like keeping office supplies and microphones stocked,” she explains. “I’m also somewhat of an advisor and a right hand to Jackie [Foley], our General Manager.”

Just as collaboration is essential to electronic music, Heffernan sees her experience at WZBC to be one of collectivity across different skills, interests, and specialties. “It’s cool because we all have our common interests but everyone here is so different,” she explains. “None of us have the same majors, [and] the station is made up of people from every single school and background.”

There is an unquestionable science to the ways in which electronic music can transport you to a completely different world yet make you feel so comfortable in your own skin at the same time. There are endless producers and electronic talent to discover, yet you’ll find yourself animatedly dancing to each new beat as if nobody’s watching. For these reasons, both electronic ambience and WZBC provide Heffernan with a unique fulfillment. “I think a lot of us had a hard time settling into BC in the beginning,” she says, “and I think this is a place that we all felt really comfortable and in which we could truly be ourselves.”

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