Rail Cables release

rail-cables-2016-coverJo Burzynska’s Alone with the Black Spirits has been released under her Stanier Black-Five moniker by the UK-based Rail Cables label on Rail Cables 2016. Those who know Jo’s longstanding interest in the sound of trains will appreciate what a great fit her work is with Rail Cables, a label devoted to showcasing new music inspired by train travel. Given her background, Rail Cables’ Stu Metcalfe also invited her to contribute the personal story of her sonic connection with the locomotive, which was beautifully transcribed by Kiran Dass and forms part of the stunning gatefold vinyl package. Copies of the album are available as a limited edition double vinyl gatefold LP or digital download from Rail Cables.

“Her piece ‘Alone with the Black Spirits’ is a 20 minute exploration of the sounds of a moving train. Since the conception of Rail Cables I have been hoping a musician / sound artist would attempt this. It seems so perfect that the task has been undertaken by somebody who cares so much about the attention to detail in the sonic manipulation of the sound of our chosen form of transport. Reminiscent of the work of Tod Dockstader, it is fascinating wondering how much of Burzynska’s piece is created from field recordings and how much editing has been involved. At times the hypnotic rhythms seem too perfect to have naturally occurred from the train itself. Yet this just helps remind us what a surprisingly musical experience travelling by train can be.” Stu Metcalfe

The recordings used on Alone with the Black Spirits were made on trains of varying eras and platforms in the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland and New Zealand.

A train story
(As reproduced in the inside cover of the release)

Curlews call and the soft syncopated panting of a steam train comes into earshot. As it builds in volume, the wheels on jointed tracks fall into a regular metrical beat, whistles blow and the birdsong is drowned out as the Stanier Black-Five thunders past.


A lull follows and then rain, through which another locomotive can be detected. This time its approach is an irregular jolting as it slips and labours on the rails before a loud hiss heralds its screeching halt. Then there’s a crackle and the sound of a needle hitting the end of the record. “Turn it over!” I urge, and my grandfather carefully flips the 45.


“Now this gradient is not as steep,” he explains as the B Side train breaks into a steady rhythm. “But hear how it changes as it goes over the bridge … and listen out for the bird when it reaches the other side.”


Many days of my early childhood I would travel like this, speeding through the British countryside and its towns with my grandfather, Stanley. Our only conveyance in most instances would be one of his train records; recordings made long before I was born of the last steam engines as they cut their final noisy passages across the country.


Sometimes these would have visual accompaniments, in the form of one of Stanley’s model train sets. I’d give the “right away” to a miniature engine, starting it on its trip as Stanley set off the record he’d cued up, breathing thrilling sonic life into their muted circuits.


Our excursions were driven by Stanley’s desire to share his passion for the railways on which he’d been raised. The son of a stationmaster, he’d longed to drive steam trains. It was a career derailed by a short sightedness that saw him become a teacher instead and the stridence of steam replaced by the subdued whirring of diesel. However, when he retired, he found in his similarly myopic granddaughter a willing companion to guide down the tracks he’d enjoyed travelling when young on these now decommissioned locomotives.


Forget the simple melodies of nursery rhymes and children’s songs; I revelled in the rich roar of the footplate’s fire. My lullabies were the pounding of pistons. I heard symphonies in the clatter and grinding friction of steel on steel.


When I was a little older, while the trains themselves were reduced to a distant rumble in my memory, they seemed to incline me towards similarly visceral and rhythmical soundscapes. But they were to return in full force on the eve of my family’s move overseas that heralded the start of my solo adult journey, when Stanley passed away and left me his record collection.


Alone with the black spirits which rage in the belly of rogue locomotives, the 33s, 45s and 78s offered comfort, conjuring fond memories of the happy hours I’d spent sonic trainspotting with Stanley. They didn’t simply hark back to a nostalgic age, but were heading forward to my next decade when they were to run through the sounds I myself would create.


Living with the vibrations of the Northern Line beneath me and Kings Cross Station metres from my house, my early adult years saw me once again immersed in train noise. It seemed fitting to mix Stanley’s records into this domestic environment, and before long I began incorporating them into my DJ sets. I found myself often playing only train records, which developed into performance pieces in their own right, culminating in the release of the Train Tracks 7” in homage to Stanley and his beloved historic recordings.


Fascinated by the sound of trains of all types I started documenting them myself: from steam trains on British heritage lines, through trans-European rail travel to Alpine crossings in New Zealand and the high speed bullet trains of Japan. These sounds have provided the material for numerous performances in recent years, as well as the track on this record.


I may now make my own recordings, but the impact of my grandfather’s vintage vinyl collection remains. It resonates in the way I hear the world and create my own work, living on as a powerful family legacy passed on to me in sound.

Oenosthesia UK premiere


10. Recording wine in Irpinia, ItalyMonday, 5 September 2016 from 19:00 to 20:30

Studio Sienko – 57A Lant St, Borough, London, SE1 1QL, UK

Experience the fascinating transformations that occur when wine and sound combine at the UK premiere of Oenosthesia. In this multisensory sound and taste work created by Australasian-based sound artist, wine writer and multisensory academic, Jo Burzynska a soundscape created from recordings made in vineyards across the world works in harmony with a selection of wines that are tasted by the audience thoughout the piece.

In Oenosthesia, Jo explores the way in which sound influences the perception of a wine’s taste and texture through the changing timbres and frequencies of the music in combination with different styles of wine. It’s a work that both includes and is created from wine, bringing together Jo’s two professional interests to create a unique experience that draws on the science of sensory interaction.

The work was initially created as an installation from a “Suoni dal confine” artist residency in Irpinia, Italy and premiered at the Interferenze New Art Festival’s Factory of Art Rurality and Media 2012 in Tufo, Italy. It has since been presented in Australasia, as part of an exhibition at Rome’s MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts and this special one-off London event is its UK premiere.

Before the presentation of Oenosthesia, Jo will provide a brief overview of the project and current research into the often powerful interactions between sound and taste. She’ll also demonstrate through the tasting of a couple of initial wines how music can enhance or detract from what you have in your glass and offer tips on matching wine with music at home.

The event is supported by Lant Street Wine and Sienko Studios with wines kindly supplied by Waipara West and Cloudy Bay.

Tickets are limited and can be booked here.

Jo Burzynska (Stanier Black-Five) has a career spanning two decades in wine and sonic art. After starting her wine writing career in the UK, after moving to New Zealand she’s penned one of the country’s most widely read wine columns in the New Zealand Herald and is the author of Wine Class: All You Need to Know About Wine in New Zealand (Random House). She is also an active sound artist, whose work in recent years has increasingly combined her professional interests in multisensory installations and performances; the founding of the world’s first “oenosthetic”bar, at The Auricle in New Zealand where she curated a wine list to match the music in the space; as well as and running regular wine and music matching workshops. She is currently engaged in research into the interaction of sound and taste thorugh a PhD at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Resounding the Timeball

DSC03943Lyttelton-based sonic artist, Jo Burzynska is reconstructing the Timeball Station out of sound as part of the Lyttelton Summer Festival. Using recordings made throughout the historic building when it was standing, she will be creating a multi-speaker installation on its site in the footprint of the original building.


Before Lyttelton’s Timeball Station was destroyed in the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Burzynska made extensive audio recordings of the building that were originally used in a performance at an event in the building hosted by the Borderline Ballroom. These ranged from the sound of the timeball itself being wound up and then dropped to documenting the audible environment of the building.


Completed in 1876, the Timeball Station was built to signal the time to ships in Lyttelton harbour, by dropping a large ball from its mast on its stone tower. This castle-like structure also included three storeys that provided accommodation, work areas and housed the clock.


While the building is no longer there physically, it will be present in sonic spirit for visitors to wander around all afternoon on 14th February. Burzynska will also be leading a one-hour sound walk around Lyttelton starting from the site at 1pm that day, which will explore the exciting acoustic terrain of this natural amphitheatre and encourage walkers to tune in to the shifting port soundscapes.


This event is being held in conjunction with Heritage New Zealand, who will also be on site to provide information about the building and the rebuild of its tower, which starts this year. The project is also supported by `funding from the Christchurch Community Arts Council.


Date: Sunday 14th February

Time: 1-5pm

Place: Timeball site, 2 Reserve Terrace, Lyttelton




Oenosthesia at MAXXI in Rome


theindependentfoodJo Burzynska’s multisensory sound and wine work, Oenosthesia is being shown at Maxxi, The National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome. The work is presented under the umbrella of the gallery’s ongoing FOOD dal cucchiaio al mondo and is part of The Independent exhibition between October 27th and November 6th, 2015 showcasing the themes explored by the Interferenze Festival, for which Oenosthesia was originally created as part of an artist residency.

Developed on the basis of the project The Independent, dedicated to the mapping and presentation of independent spaces and thinking, this exhibition analyses the issues of food and nutrition, explored by the museum in the exhibition FOOD dal Cucchiaio al mondo.

The exhibition presents the interventions of three groups – Pollinaria, Aspra.mente and Interferenze – regarding three fundamental ingredients of the Mediterranean diet: wheat, tomatoes and wine. Each is added progressively to the other to produce a transparent palimpsest, visible in its entirety at the end of the project. A round table at the centre symbolically represents the convivial dimension within which the project exists. Each participating group has involved artists and architects to interpret the multiple and complex declinations of food: it becomes the vehicle for examining broader issues that affect the social, political and economic spheres of the present.



Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices in Liverpool


Following its premiere as part of the Mishearings exhibition at The Auricle in June, I will be presenting the film of my McGurk poem, Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices in Liverpool at the Illusions Parade in Liverpool on 25th August at Camp and Furnace.


The event is part of the European Conference on Visual Perception, but is open to the public.

Tuesday, 25th August

6:00 – 11:00 pm

Camp & Furnace, Liverpool