Playing with Words


Playing with Words is an ongoing research project investigating artists’ practices with the spoken word.

The initial project investigated a variety of artists’ practices from a range of disciplines including literature, music and performance and resulted in a book; a CD and online audio compilation;  a symposium at Tate Britain; software tools; sound works and a conference paper. It was funded by the AHRC and ran from 2008 to 2011.

The project arose out of my experience of working with recorded spoken word as compositional material, particularly ‘Hidden Lives’ (1999) and ‘The Memory Machine'(2003/4). The experience of making these works along with others such as ‘Hidden Voices’ and ‘Hidden Lives2: the House of Memory’ started ongoing wider research. One strand of this research is  into other artists working between the sonic and the semantic possibilities of spoken word  and the other is into the developing new creative software that could be used specifically with spoken word material.

This project has a number of different outputs of different types associated with it. These include:

Sound works 

Hidden Lives’ (1999)

The Memory Machine'(2003/4)

Hidden Voices (2004/6)

In combat with …(2010)

The Ties that Bind (2013)

Preparations for an Imaginary Conflict (2015)

Why Oh Why (2014)



Playing with Words an audio compilation  audio CD and online compilation 





DVD  Playing with Words LIVE

Kulturnetz Frankfurt e.V. presents: International SoundArtFestivalGallus-Theater, Frankfurt am Main 2009 / A film by Bernhard Bauser Featuring: Joerg Piringer (A), Ansuman Biswas (GB), Dirk Huelstrunk (G), Sianed Jones (GB), Nye Parry (GB), Jaap Blonk (NL)

pwwcover Book 

Playing with words: the spoken word in artistic practice is a collection of responses from over 40 leading contemporary composers and artists who were invited to represent aspects of their creative practice with words, and in particular, the spoken word, for the printed page.

The book concentrates on the kinds of creative play to be found in different sound based genres such as electroacoustic music composition, text sound composition, and sound poetry while reflecting artistic practices in disciplines of such as digital arts, electronic, concrete and experimental poetry, performance art and fine art. The contributors have chosen to represent their work in a variety of different ways which include writing, graphics, poetry, photographs and through interview.

Contributions by Tomomi Adachi, Laurie Anderson, Ansuman Biswas, Jaap Blonk, Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Alessandro Bosetti, Oliver Bown, Viv Corringham, Thomas Gardner, Iris Garrelfs, Clive Graham, Sten Hanson, Dirk Huelstrunk, Sianed Jones, Joan La Barbara, Brandon LaBelle, Leigh Landy, Cathy Lane, Language Removal Services, Paul Lansky, Ellen Moffat, Katharine Norman, Nye Parry, Joerg Piringer, Brown Sierra, Imogen Stidworthy, J. Milo Taylor, Sue Tompkins, David Toop, Barry Truax, Michael Vincent, Salomé Voegelin, Julian Weaver, Larry Wendt, Charlotte White, Trevor Wishart, John Wynne, Pamela Z.
Spoken word scores by Paul Burwell, Bob Cobbing, Benji Fox, Chris Jones, Taigen Kawabe, Ross Knipe, Lina Lapelyte, Andrew Locke, David Toop, Manuel Xastre.


Academic Papers

‘Why Not our Voices’ Women and Music; A Journal of Gender and Culture. Due out Jan 2016

Sound Sense Speech and Babble: approaches to the spoken word in contemporary sound art practices.  EMS Network, 2011 (fuller paper available on request)

Voices from the Past: Compositional Approaches to using recorded speech Organised Sound 11:1 2006

The Memory Machine: sound and memory at the British Museum Organised Sound 10:2 (with Nye Parry) 2005

Software initiatives


Deja Vu

Sound Matters

Symposium  Speaking Out: The Spoken Word in Artistic Practice, Tate Modern , February 2010.  Audio recording available here 

Speaking Out