In Bass Affects, Jo Burzynska invites an embodied and multisensory engagement with the emotional resonances of low frequency sound, which can be listened to, or remain unheard. Its installations stir and lull through their exploration of the nexus between the exciting and disquieting effects of the bass spectrum. Created largely from field recordings Burzynska has made in recent years of external low frequency phenomena, the sounds used are drawn from nature and human-made sources. These include the Pacific Ocean and electrical storms, to Lulworth Wind Farm, and Sydney Town Hall’s Grand Organ that possesses one of the world’s lowest pitched (8 Hz) pipes.
Low frequencies (below 200 Hz) are a much mythologised and misunderstood region of the sound spectrum. These frequencies – that are felt in the body as much as heard with the ear, and as infrasound (below 20 Hz) often on the threshold of hearing – move in mysterious ways. Bass tones are present in our body, in respiration and the beating of our hearts. In nature they emerge from the surf, and in the rumblings of seismic activity and storms. They’re emitted by machines in the industrial world. Humans actively use low frequencies in spiritual and cultural practices from bullroarers and church organs, to the beats of music we dance to. Attempts have also been made to harness them as weapons.
Yet historically, public research into the effects of low frequencies on humans remained limited. This deep void came to resonate with the repetition of findings from unreliable studies, misinformation, and far-fetched anecdotes, amplified by their regular repetition in sensationalist media coverage. Much of the purported physiological effects have now largely been disproved, with relaxation effects emerging as more likely than adverse health impacts. However, low frequency sound has become newly weaponised in attempts to discredit wind turbines, fanned by the fossil fuels industry. Such emotional manipulation and its psychological effects appear more forceful than any previous endeavours in sonic warfare.
From the sublime to the annoying, the wondrous to the threatening, context has come to direct more emotional power than the bass vibrations themselves. In Bass Affects, low frequencies from natural, devotional and industrial sources combine and converse, creating an expanded contextual spectrum that encourages a more open low frequency listening.
Jo Burzynska would like to thank Grace Kar Man Chan for making the Grand Organ roar; Malcolm Riddoch for his assistance with the recordings; and Sydney Town Hall and Lulworth Farm for providing access.
At: Audio Foundation
4 Poynton Terrace Auckland New Zealand
Opens: Friday 6 August 2021, 5.30pm
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 4pm
Closes: Saturday 4 September
Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to a number of broadcasters about my work and research into wine and sound. Here are links to some of them here:
I spoke to Annaliese Redlich for her fascination All Ears podcast series that explores the ways music challenges, comforts and connects us. I’m the second half of this programme.
It was great to go into some detail with Emilie Steckenborn for the Bottled in China podcast.
A little earlier I caught up with Daniel Brennan for Vintage Stories during my Osmic Resonance audio-olfactory art exhibition at Sydney’s Accelerator Gallery.
I’m currently working on lots of exciting multisensory projects which I will endeavour to share on this site in the weeks to come. If you want to sign up to my mailing list, please contact me here.
Date: Tuesday 11th December
Venue: UNSW Paddington Campus, Sydney
We are recruiting participants for a study investigating how sound might affect the perception of flavour characters in audio-gustatory artworks. If you participate, you will listen to a number of sounds/music works and taste a small amount of red and white wine, about which you will be asked a series of questionnaire-based questions. The experiment will take a total of one hour. The study is being conducted as part of PhD research at UNSW and has been approved by university Human Research Ethics Committee (Ref: HC180394).
To take part, you must be aged over 18 (and provide ID to prove this), be comfortable with consuming a small (125ml) amount of wine (spittoons will be provided). We require you to be in good health and have a normal sense of smell, taste and audition. This study is not suitable for those who have allergies to wine/alcohol; are on any medications that could interact with alcohol; are pregnant or have past or current issues with alcohol dependency. If you fit these criteria and would like to take part, please contact Jo Burzynska using the form below.
For those participating that are interested, this will be followed by an informal wine and music/sound matching presentation at 7pm.
Please feel free to share with any friends who you think might be interested.
Live audio-olfactory performance
28th January, 2018 – NOW Now Festival, Sydney, Australia
28th April, 2018 – Selectors’ Records, Vancouver, Canada
“When Locomotion No1 made the world’s first commercial steam journey in 1825 it created the first movement in the history of the railways, and of a whole body of musical work inspired by the iron horse’s subsequent noisy passage through the world’s once peaceful open country. While the train came to symbolise order, progress and freedom, its potential for unpredictability and disaster on the other – from runaway trains to derailments and crashes – evoked a mixture of fear and fascination reflected in and provoked by some of the sublime musical journeys which have incorporated its aural imagery.
Jo Burzynska, “The Sound of Steam.” Noisegate 13 (2006).
Jump on board for a dromological journey illuminated by the sonic, kinetic and olfactory energy of locomotion and landscapes passed through at speed. In this live audio-olfactory performance – which follows the Stanier Black-Five vinyl release of Alone with the Black Spirits on the UK’s Rail Cables last year – I’m returning to my longstanding fascination with trains in my first ever rail-based work in Australia and featuring aromatic elements. The sound component will use my field recordings of trains made around the world, which is entwined with a congruent shifting aromascape that I’ve blended that applies my own and existing research into crossmodal correspondences, the universal tendency of a sensory feature in one modality to be matched with one from another sensory modality.
A few copies of the Rail Cables vinyl still available to purchase.