Sonic Runway Warps to San José for Playa to Paseo, Opens November 3

It’s time for Phase 3 in the evolution of Sonic Runway. Surely you rode your bike through this thing on playa at least 11 times in 2016. After that, Rob Jensen and Warren Trezevant got a whole new version of Sonic Runway fabricated and installed in Chengdu, China. Now it’s coming to downtown San José, California as part of the city’s three-year-long Playa to Paseo arts initiative. The grand opening party will be held November 3.

What: Sonic Runway Artwork Launch
Where: San José City Hall, 200 Santa Clara Avenue, San José, CA
When: November 3, 2017, 6 – 8 pm

Featuring Mutant Vehicles, DJs, fire artists and a few more surprises — a night of celebration!

Sonic Runway, as you may recall, is a tunnel of extremely blinky arches that converts audio signals into a pattern of lights that shoots down the tunnel at the speed of sound (1225 kph / 761 mph). From one end of the Runway, you can see the music racing away from you. On the other, you can see it coming at you and hear it reach you in sync with the patterns. The effect is pretty nuts. In San José, the Sonic Runway will be 432 feet long and stretch across two city blocks.

Burning Man Project will offer a grant workshop in San José this October to share how to apply for Black Rock City Honoraria, which fund art going to the annual event in Nevada, or for Global Art Grant funding, which supports participatory art projects around the world. The artists will also host workshops covering topics including how to create art using the science of sound, working with steel, LED programming, and more. The City is also working with the South Bay Burners Regional Group and local artists, musicians, fashion designers, and performance companies to crank up the audible and visible volume in San José.

Here’s the full press release:

“Playa to Paseo” Opening at San José City Hall November 3, in Partnership With Burning Man Project

Downtown San José to feature other Burning Man-inspired art pieces

The City of San José and Burning Man Project announce the selection of the first artwork for the Playa to Paseo initiative, and an opening celebration scheduled for November 3. Playa to Paseo, designed as a three-year instigation of art for downtown San José, is also an invitation to play, engage, and participate in art-making city-wide.

“Each artwork is chosen because we see the possibilities for learning, celebration, and participation for our local artists and residents,” Director of Cultural Affairs, Kerry Adams-Hapner said.

The initial artwork is Sonic Runway by Robert Jensen and Warren Trezevant, and will be installed along Santa Clara Avenue in front of the iconic San José City Hall building designed by architect Richard Meier.

“We see this location for the first artwork as a symbol of how inclusive we anticipate this project will become; it’s an invitation for all our citizens to feel welcomed to play, connect, and celebrate,” stated Kim Walesh, City of San José’s Deputy City Manager and Economic Development Director.

Sonic Runway is a light-art installation that converts audio signals into a pattern of lights that shoot down a corridor of arches at the speed of sound, (1225kph / 761mph). The Runway’s arches are each lined with 277 addressable LEDs. Live audio input is analyzed and converted into intricate patterns that shoot down the corridor with sound and lights in sync. Standing at the front of the Runway, you can see the beats of the music rippling away from you, and looking back from the far end, you can see the sound coming at you and hear the music just as the patterns reach you. In San José, the Sonic Runway installation will be 432 feet long and stretch across two city blocks.

The artwork will launch publicly on November 3 at 6 p.m., and all are invited to join the celebration. Kim Cook, Burning Man’s Director, Art & Civic Engagement, shared these thoughts: “When we bring artists who’ve created work for Black Rock City into other contexts, we want to do so thoughtfully. We are not so much interested in transferring objects as we are in sharing the process behind co-created, collaborative artworks. Thus each artwork includes elements that can be shared and developed in San José.”

Burning Man Project will be a offering grant workshop in San José this October to share how to apply for funding from Burning Man to create work for the annual event in Nevada or for Global Art Grant funding which supports participatory art projects around the world. Additional workshops with the artists will include how to understand create using the science of sound, working with steel, LED programming, and more.

“It is exciting to see a Burning Man piece as dynamic as Sonic Runway being installed in an urban environment,” Burning Man Project CEO, Marian Goodell said. “Our partnership with the City of San José is a major step forward in exploring the possibilities of large-scale art outside of the Black Rock Desert, and we hope this serves as an invitation for artists to engage in the South Bay and beyond.”

The City is also working with the Regional South Bay Burners and local artists to provide even more activation with musicians, fashion designers, and performance companies to illuminate all the possibilities of the Sonic Runway.

Artist Bios

Rob Jensen

Lead artist, Rob Jensen conceived the Sonic Runway while observing the effects of sound at Burning Man in 2002. As a visual artist, engineer and musician, Rob has always been drawn to the intersection of science and art.

Rob’s day job also combines art and technology, where he alternates between animating and engineering at Pixar Animation Studios.

Warren Trezevant

Warren enjoys creating experiences of wonder, from bringing characters to life on the movie screen, as a former animator at Pixar Animation Studios, to bringing them to life in the real world, as with the stroboscopic Toy Story Zoetrope. Warren’s also contributed his animation skills to Burning Man projects like Peter Hudson’s large-scale stroboscopic zoetropes, Charon and Eternal Return, as well as the breathing for Marco Cochrane’s sculpture, R-Evolution.

Warren’s been a co-collaborator and producer of the Sonic Runway since its inception.

About Playa to Paseo

The partnership with the City of San José is intended to call forth to the San José artist community and invite participation in imagining the way that temporary art can invigorate public spaces across San José’s 180-square-mile landscape. This project will be part of a larger initiative to develop art from within the San José art community that can both go to Black Rock City and be situated in San José, thus completing the circle from Playa to Paseo to Playa.

About Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project, a nonprofit organization, produces the annual Burning Man event in Black Rock City, and works year-round to extend and facilitate the culture that has grown from the event into the larger world. Burning Man Project provides inspiration, connection, education, and grants to a creative ecosystem of builders, makers, artists, and community leaders. Its work spans six interconnected program areas: Art, Education, Civic Involvement, Culture, Philosophical Center, and Social Enterprise. An ever-growing global network supports and furthers these efforts in 44 U.S. states and 37 countries around the world.

About the San José Office of Cultural Affairs

The City of San José recognizes that the arts and culture are essential elements in the character and quality of life in a vibrant community and seeks to ensure that San José is an effective hub of a wide array of arts and cultural opportunities throughout Silicon Valley. The Office of Cultural Affairs, a division of Economic Development in the City Manager’s Office, is the lead City of San José agency for stewarding a vibrant arts sector. It achieves this mission through public art and placemaking, arts funding, special event coordination, creative entrepreneur work-force development, cultural facility stewardship, and, among other items, cultural policy. Visit

About the City of San José

San José, Capital of Silicon Valley, is the largest city in Northern California and the 10th largest city in the nation, with an ethnically diverse population of more than one million. San José was founded in 1777, once served as the state capital of California, and encompasses 180 square miles. The City’s website is

Top photo by Rob Jensen

About the author: Jon Mitchell

Jon Mitchell

, a.k.a. Argus, was publisher of the Burning Man Journal, the Jackrabbit Speaks newsletter, and the Burning Man website from 2016 to 2019. He joined the Comm Team as a volunteer in 2010 and as year-round staff in 2014. He co-wrote a big story about spending 24 hours at the Temple of Juno in 2012. His first Burn was in 2008.

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