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Hazel Smith on 'Musico-literary miscegenations: synergies between words and sound in new media writing

Friday 5 September
11.00am -12.30pm
Building 3.G.55, Bankstown Campus, UWS

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.

Hazel Smith is a research professor in the Writing and Society Research Centre . She is author of The Writing Experiment: strategies for innovative creative writing, Allen and Unwin, 2005 and Hyperscapes in the Poetry of Frank O'Hara: difference, homosexuality, topography, Liverpool University Press, 2000. She is co-author of Improvisation, Hypermedia And The Arts Since 1945, Harwood Academic, 1997 and co-editor with Roger Dean of Practice-led Research, Research-led Practice in the Creative Arts, Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
Hazel is also a poet, performer and new media artist, and has published three volumes of poetry, three CDs of performance work and numerous multimedia works.  Her latest volume of creative work, with accompanying CD Rom, is The Erotics of Geography: poetry, performance texts, new media works, Tinfish Press, Kaneohe, Hawaii, 2008. Formerly a professional violinist, she is a member of austraLYSIS, the sound and intermedia arts group She has performed her work extensively in the US, Europe, UK and Australasia, and has been co-recipient of numerous grants for austraLYSIS from the Australia Council for the Arts (including a key organization grant 2000-2004). In 2012-13 she was a recipient of an Australia Council for the Arts Literature Board Digital and New Media Writing grant. She has had five large-scale commissions from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and in 1992 her collaboration with Roger Dean,  Poet Without Language, was nominated by the ABC for the prestigious Prix Italia Prize. She has performed her work extensively in the USA, Europe, UK and Australasia.  Hazel was the founder editor of infLect, an online international journal of new media writing based at the University of Canberra (2004-6), and is now co-editor with Roger Dean of soundsRite, a journal of new media writing and sound, based at the University of Western Sydney. Her website is at

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