Hazel Smith: Musico-literary miscegenations:

synergies between words and sound in new media writing

Film of Sound from Will Luers on Vimeo.

This paper is based in the field of new media writing, or electronic literature: it focuses on literary works that employ computer programming, and in which the words can be screened or sounded. Such works commonly involve textual kineticism, interactivity, split screens, textual variability and many other features.  While discussion of the relationship of image and word has been prominent in the discussion of new media writing, the role of sound is rarely addressed in this context, even though words are sounds, and sounds are a major component of multimedia.  In this paper I will explore possibilities for new theoretical frameworks that address this word-sound relationship both formally and culturally, drawing on formulations in the area of musico-literary discourse, and on theories of globalisation, cosmopolitanism and biraciality.  I argue that synergies between words and music in new media writing create emergent structures and meanings that can facilitate boundary crossing, transnationalism and cross-cultural exchange.

The paper will examine the different types of sound in new media writing from the ecological to the electronic.  I draw up a typology of different kinds of conjunctions between sound and words (e.g. parallelism, co-ordination, semiotic and perceptual exchange, algorithmic synaesthesia, heterogeneity and sonification), showing how these conjunctions create emergent structures and meanings.  In addition I explore some of the cultural effects of these word-sound combinations using the idea of miscegenation – interracial sexual relationships — as a metaphor.

The paper will be illustrated with examples from classic electronic literature works such as John Cayley’s Translation and Young Hae Chang Heavy industries Operation Nukorea.  It will also feature work by the Australian sound and multimedia group austraLYSIS —  of which I am a member — including a new piece by Will Luers (images and coding), Roger Dean (sound) and myself (text) called motions.

Examples: Download the powerpoint from Hazel’s presentation and view works that Hazel discusses via the following links-

Film of Sound by  Will Luers, Roger Dean and Hazel Smith Opens in a new window

afterimage by M.D. Coverley Opens in a new window

Suicide in an Airplane (1919) An algorithmic poem/painting by Brian Kim Stefans Music by Leo Ornstein Opens in a new window

Nippon by Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries Opens in a new window

Operation Nukorea by Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries Opens in a new window

Translation by John Cayley with music by Giles Perring Opens in a new window

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