One goal of this project is to nurture a soundwriting community. To that end, we were pleased to include the voices of scholars Will Burdette, Stan Harrison, Steph Ceraso, and Kati Fargo Ahern in our introduction; you'll find their full recordings available below (excerpts of which are heard in our full introduction). But we want to encourage you to participate too.

You'll find below a recording of Eric Detweiler reading an excerpt from The Radio Amateur's Hand Book (Collins, 1922). In our introduction, you heard many different uses of that file and those words. But beyond our ideas for soundwriting, what would you do with these excerpts?

Give it a try. Download the file. Read the text. Think about what the text suggests, perhaps recording yourself talking aloud about possibilities. Then, using an audio editor of your choice, make something new.

Additionally, we are providing the two songs we wrote, which you can listen to and download below. We're also providing a .zip file of Kyle's song "Marconi" (with an Audacity file and its assets) so you can create your own remix.

And when you do, share it with us. Our Twitter info (and that of our colleagues referenced within the intro) is linked below.

Twitter Contacts for Soundwriters Mentioned in Our Introduction

The following people are cited or discussed in our introduction. Of course, it's not the only way to make connections in the soundwriting community, but it's a good start!

Will Burdette: On Soundwriting

On Soundwriting
Will Burdette

Hey folks, what's happening? I'm Will Burdette, I'm the coordinator of the Digital Writing and Research Lab [DWRL] at the University of Texas at Austin. I'm also a recent graduate of the PhD program in English with an emphasis in rhetoric and digital literacies. I'm gonna reflect here for a little bit on my use of the term soundwriting to describe some of the work that I've done in my time at UT.

Soundwriting is a translation back from "phonograph," which came from the Greek words for "sound" and "writing." So lots of people have used some version of the word "soundwriting," and I don't want to stake any particular claim to it, but I think it does have extra meaning to people who teach writing because "soundwriting" can also mean "writing that's well-constructed," and so for those of us who work at the intersection of writing instruction and multimedia, the multifaceted meanings of "soundwriting" create, you know, a particular resonance.

When I first got to UT in 2007, I was thinking about all this, all of these resonances, and I took classes that allowed me to research sound and I did research into dictation and soundwriting machines, starting around 2008. And that's about the same time I started writing papers and giving conference presentations, and between 2008 and 2012 I gave several conference presentations on soundwriting: I started out writing about Erle Stanley Gardner's dictation practices—he was the one who wrote all the Perry Mason books for the TV shows. I looked at audio recording from an accessibility perspective and from the perspective of creating sort of robust multimedia ecologies. I wrote about Allen Ginsberg's experiments with soundwriting in his poem "Wichita Vortex Sutra," which he recorded in a van as he drove across Kansas. Then, on August 26, 2010, I registered the domains writingwithsound.com and soundwriting.org, and I continued writing about sound at a blog I hosted at soundwriting.org.

I ramped up my research and really started to think seriously about how to incorporate sound into the writing classroom and into scholarship in rhetoric and writing. The DWRL put out a special issue of Currents in Electronic Literacy on writing with sound in 2011. I also designed a class called Soundwriting in Digital Spaces in 2012, and that's now part of our undergraduate curriculum, and professor Casey Boyle teaches it as Writing with Sound. Before that, I designed and taught a class called Remixing Rhetoric, and that was around 2008, and before I officially adopted the term soundwriting I used the term remixing a lot more, and those of you in rhetoric and composition will remember the Conference on College Composition and Communication in New Orleans that had the theme of Remix, and I believe that was in 2008. By 2011 I was more or less done with the term remix and I had moved on to using the term soundwriting to encompass many of the activites that I was doing. And since then I've been doing a lot of building infrastructure in the Digital Writing and Research Lab to facilitate soundwriting and to support faculty who want to teach it and who want to use audio in their scholarship. I've also been training graduate students in the practice, and a number of interviews with scholars and podcasts and other audio projects have come out of the lab in the last several years.

So my usage of the term has ebbed and flowed, but hard evidence seems to point to the registration of the domain names on August 26, 2010, as being kind of like peak soundwriting for me. But I probably first used the term in 2008, 2009, about the time that Cynthia Selfe's article "The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Multimodal Composing" came out. Now, typically, around here, we call it "writing with sound" because that's the name of the course that we teach, and that's how it's listed in the course catalog. But the term soundwriting still has quite a bit of resonance with me.

Stanley D. Harrison: Reflection on SoundWriting Old and New

Reflection on SoundWriting Old and New
Stanley D. Harrison

[download chirp]

Voice-to-Text: Download Commencing. Audio Buffering.

[program theme music up and under]

Anchor: Uncertainty grips the heart of a little known word—SoundWriting. Back in 2000, writing teacher Stan Harrison coined the term. At the time, he claimed that people become cyborg SoundWriters whenever they use Automated Speech Recognition Typing Programs. Today, writing teachers still talk about SoundWriting. But these days, they use the term a little differently. When writing teachers speak of SoundWriting, they mean that writers can turn their notes and scripts into audio recordings. It's SoundWriting old and new. And Stan Harrison returns to reflect on the word he coined and its value for the future.

[theme music fades out]

Harrison: Because posthuman SoundWriters use a supernormal process to produce text in increasingly supernormal amounts comma we might reasonably expect an intense comma if not supernormal comma debate to hinge upon the exploits and adventures of posthuman SoundWriters period. Select all. Read that.

Voice-to-Text: Because posthuman SoundWriters use a supernormal process to produce text in increasingly supernormal amounts, we might reasonably expect an intense, if not supernormal, debate to hinge upon the exploits and adventures of posthuman SoundWriters.

Harrison: That's how we did it—

[posthuman electronica up and under]

Harrison: me and my computer prosthetic—back in the winter of 2000. I put on my headset. Positioned my earpiece and microphone. Launched my automated speech recognition typing program. And, together,

Harrison & Voice-to-Text: we produced Cyborg SoundWriting…

Voice-to-Text: Writing beyond the point of familiar recognition

Harrison & Voice-to-Text: Cyborg SoundWriting…

Harrison: Sound that produces visible writing

Harrison & Voice-to-Text: Cyborg SoundWriting…

Voice-to-Text: Visible writing that challenges the idea of speech as ephemeral activity

Harrison & Voice-to-Text: Cyborg SoundWriting…

Harrison: Ephemeral activity that shifts the site of composition from hand to mouth

Harrison & Voice-to-Text: Cyborg SoundWriting…

Harrison: A composing practice I just knew would inspire discussion, if not debate,

Harrison & Voice-to-Text: because it takes place

Voice-to-Text: at the juncture of homo sapiens and homo superior

Harrison: That discussion. That debate.

[posthuman electronic fades out]

Harrison: It never happened.

[car crash]

Harrison: Still, I was happy that Cyborg SoundWriting had put the relationship between speech, writing, and composition on new ontological grounds.

[clock ticking]

[soft, contemplative piano music up and under]

Harrison: Then, while Cyborg SoundWriting faded into the past of forgotten theory, writing teachers suddenly became interested in soundwriting of a different kind. Computer technology had advanced. Computer users had learned that they could make and distribute audio recordings. And writing teachers responded by teaching themselves… how to teach their students… how to write for sound. At long last, writing teachers had opened themselves to studies in the art of sound.

[music fades out]

[radio channel-switching static]

Radio Announcer: The Columbia Workshop presents The Fall of the City by Archibald MacLeish.

[radio channel-switching static]

Radio Announcer: And now, get ready to smile again with radio's home folks, Vic and Sade, written by Paul Rhymer.

[radio channel-switching static]

[soft, contemplative piano music up and under]

Harrison: Hard to believe. But back in the 1990s, I wrote a Ph.D. dissertation that answered this most unhappy question: Why have English professors turned a deaf ear to the history of U.S. radio and recorded sound art? At the same time, back when absolutely no one else was doing it, I enjoyed teaching classes on U.S. audio drama.

[music fades out]

[radio channel-switching static]

Radio Announcer: Our drama today was The Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto by Morton Wishengrad.

[radio channel-switching static]

Radio Announcer: Tonight, James Cagney in Arch Oboler's dramatization of the most talked-of book of the year, Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo.

[radio channel-switching static]

[soft, contemplative piano music up and under]

Harrison: Almost 25 years have passed since I gathered class materials by tracking down small collectors who had and were willing to duplicate tape recordings of old-time radio programs. In that time, technology caught up to my old interest in the art of sound. And finally, at long last, writing teachers had the tools they needed to teach the art of sound.

[cross-fade between soft contemplative piano music and posthuman electronica.; posthuman electronica up and under]

Harrison: I still believe that Cyborg SoundWriters should also consider what it means to be a machine/organism that features… Read that.

Voice-to-Text: a speaking human;

Harrison: Read that.

Voice-to-Text: a microphone transducer that turns human sound wave energy into a continuous flow of electrical energy;

Harrison: Read that.

Voice-to-Text: a voice-to-text computer program that changes electric current into strings of digital code;

Harrison: Read that.

Voice-to-Text: a word processing program that turns digital code into written words on a computer monitor;

Harrison: Read that.

Voice-to-Text: a text-to-voice program that translates visible words and their digital code back into electric current that, in turn, causes the headset's transducing element, or speaker, to vibrate and produce sound waves that, in turn, simulate a human voice in the act of reading words on a video monitor.

Harrison: Today's Cyborg SoundWriters, with their speech-to-text smartphones, still need to know who and what they are. Who could argue with that? But they must do something more. They must turn their supernormal powers upon the unspoken possibilities of the unwritten future. And that's where writing for sound comes in. Today's Cyborg SoundWriters need to learn about their heritage-in-sound by listening to the recordings of such greats as Archibald MacLeish, Morton Wishengrad, the Firesign Theater, and Yuri Rasovsky. They need to learn how to develop their craft by reading texts on audio production and aesthetics by long lost authorities like Erik Barnouw, Robert L. Mott, Donald McWhinnie, and Rudolf Arnheim. Then finally, when they're ready, SoundWriters should sound the uncertain depths of their computer–human selves and the world they call "home," so they may answer the call of the uncertain future.

[music fades]

Harrison: SoundWriting and soundwriting.

[music fades out]

Harrison: It just makes sense.

[download chirp]

Voice-to-Text: Download complete. We return you now to your regular audio-stream-of-consciousness.

[Paulstretched and reversed ghostly noise and out]


Audio Productions. (2014). Radio tuning sound effect [Mp4 file]. YouTube. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/JdPlUyMW6NQ

Frozen Silence. (2005). Sad piano [Mp3 file]. Jamendo. Retrieved from https://www.jamendo.com/track/25218/sad-piano

Harrison, Stanley D. (1999). Foundations for the study of American rhapsody (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from the University of Rhode Island Digital Commons@URI. http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/dissertations/AAI9955096

Harrison, Stanley D. (2000). Cyborgs and digital soundwriting: Rearticulating automated speech recognition typing programs. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, 5(1). Retrieved March 29, 2014, from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/5.1/features/harrison/index.html

joedeshon. (2009). alarm_clock_ticking_01.wav [Wav file]. Freesound. Retrieved from https://freesound.org/people/joedeshon/sounds/78563/

Little Red King. (2011). Good-bye bear [Mp3 file]. Retrieved from http://luridcactus.com/Music/GoodByeBear_LittleRedKing_44.1kHz_16b_320.mp3

MacLeish, Archibald. (1937). The fall of the city [Mp3 file]. Internet Archive. Retrieved from https://archive.org/download/ColumbiaWorkshop/370411_The_Fall_of_the_City.mp3

musicmasta1. (2011). CarStartSkidCrash.wav [Wav file]. Freesound. Retrieved from https://www.freesound.org/people/musicmasta1/sounds/131385/

Oboler, Arch. (1940). Johnny got his gun [Mp3 file]. Old Time Radio Researchers Library. Retrieved from http://otrrlibrary.org/OTRRLib/Library%20Files/A%20Series/Arch%20Oboler's%20Plays/Arch%20Obolers%20Plays%2040-03-09%20(51)%20Johnny%20Got%20His%20Gun.mp3

PerlssDj. (2009). Cinetica [Mp3 file]. Retrieved from http://ia600200.us.archive.org/30/items/bp046/PerlssDj_-_01_Cinetica.mp3

Rhymer, Paul. (1940). Bacon sandwiches [Mp3 file]. Old Time Radio Researchers Library. Retrieved from http://otrrlibrary.org/OTRRLib/Library%20Files/U-V%20Series/Vic%20And%20Sade/Vic%20and%20Sade%2040-08-14%20(x)%20Bacon%20Sandwiches.mp3

Wishengrad, Morton. (1954). Battle of the Warsaw Ghetto [Cassette]. Sandyhook, CT: Radio Yesteryear.

Steph Ceraso: (Re)Educating the Senses (Excerpt)

(Re)Educating the Senses (Excerpt)
Steph Ceraso

Excerpt from Ceraso, Steph. (2014). (Re)Educating the senses: Multimodal listening, bodily learning, and the composition of sonic experiences. College English, 77(2), 102–123.

Steph Ceraso, University of Virginia: Although rhetoric and composition scholarship is beginning to acknowledge a wider range of nondiscursive materials and modes, the ultimate pursuit of meaning making in this work positions multimodal approaches in the same realm as the discursive: a realm where objects are analyzed and interpreted. I argue that alongside and in addition to semiotic approaches to multimodality, it is necessary to address the affective, embodied, lived experience of multimodality in more explicit ways. Sound is an especially ideal medium for better understanding multimodal experiences because unlike visual or tactile experiences, interactions between sound and the body depend on vibrations. This vibratory aspect of sound is one of the reasons that listening, though it is not usually treated as such, is a multimodal event that involves the synesthetic convergence of sight, sound, and touch. That is, sound is often experienced via multiple sensory modes—it can be seen, heard, and felt. My term multimodal listening encompasses both the semiotic and the embodied, sensory aspects of multimodal experiences, which I see as significantly interconnected. (p. 104)

Kati Fargo Ahern: Tuning the Sonic Playing Field (Excerpt)

Tuning the Sonic Playing Field (Excerpt)
Kati Fargo Ahern

Excerpt from Ahern, Katherine Fargo. (2013). Tuning the sonic playing field: Teaching ways of knowing sound in first year writing. Computers and Composition, 30(2), 75–86. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2013.03.001

Kati Fargo Ahern, Long Island University, Post Campus: However, in reading both Comstock and Hocks and McKee's work, what I found myself questioning was not how to introduce audio-essays or voice-over, but how to introduce students to uses of sound that do not necessarily draw on the spoken word, voice, or discourse. In other words, as McKee (2006) points out, sound is composed of speech, music, sound effect, and silence. I wondered how students could be given exposure to aspects of auditory rhetoric devoid of verbal discourse, and what approach would act to "level" the playing field for sound effect and music? And how can this leveling be achieved while acknowledging different access to skill sets and vocabulary regarding non-discursive sound? Furthermore, while I have been using the term "teaching" explicitly, I do not mean to suggest a paternal or pastoral model where the instructor necessarily feels a superior level of access to concepts of sound. In fact, Anderson et al. (2006) note that for multimodal composing as a whole, respondents "reported being largely on their own as they planned, implemented, and assessed multimodal learning experiences for students" (p. 74), and as Comstock and Hocks (2006) note, many instructors feel unprepared for composing using sound. Thus, my question of leveling the "playing field" of sound for students is as much a question of instructor access to sound as well. It was not until much later that I developed the metaphor of "tuning" the sonic playing field (as opposed to "leveling") as a way to address both the question of explicit classroom exploration and access to skills. This metaphor of tuning is one that I will ultimately discuss below. (p. 78)

Eric Detweiler: The Radio Amateur's Hand Book (Excerpt)

The Radio Amateur's Hand Book
Eric Detweiler

Excerpt from Collins, A. Frederick. (1922). The radio amateur's hand book: A complete, authentic and informative work on wireless telegraphy and telephony. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6934

Before delving into the mysteries of receiving and sending messages without wires, a word as to the history of the art and its present day applications may be of service. While popular interest in the subject has gone forward by leaps and bounds within the last two or three years, it has been a matter of scientific experiment for more than a quarter of a century.

The wireless telegraph was invented by William Marconi, at Bologna, Italy, in 1896, and in his first experiments he sent dot and dash signals to a distance of 200 or 300 feet. The wireless telephone was invented by the author of this book at Narberth, Penn., in 1899, and in his first experiments the human voice was transmitted to a distance of three blocks.

The first vital experiments that led up to the invention of the wireless telegraph were made by Heinrich Hertz, of Germany, in 1888 when he showed that the spark of an induction coil set up electric oscillations in an open circuit, and that the energy of these waves was, in turn, sent out in the form of electric waves. He also showed how they could be received at a distance by means of a ring detector, which he called a resonator.

In 1890, Edward Branly, of France, showed that metal filings in a tube cohered when electric waves acted on them, and this device he termed a radio conductor; this was improved upon by Sir Oliver Lodge, who called it a coherer. In 1895, Alexander Popoff, of Russia, constructed a receiving set for the study of atmospheric electricity, and this arrangement was the earliest on record of the use of a detector connected with an aerial and the earth.

Marconi was the first to connect an aerial to one side of a spark gap and a ground to the other side of it. He used an induction coil to energize the spark gap, and a telegraph key in the primary circuit to break up the current into signals. Adding a Morse register, which printed the dot and dash messages on a tape, to the Popoff receptor he produced the first system for sending and receiving wireless telegraph messages.

"Marconi" and "Marconi (Instrumental)"

Below you can listen to Kyle's song "Marconi." We also invite you to make your own remix of "Marconi"! Download this .zip file, which includes an .aup file that can be opened in the free audio editing program Audacity. Then you can add your own music, singing, or effects to the individual tracks making up the song. And if you do, please share them with us!

Kyle Stedman

I want you to know
the history of the radio.
You think it's brand new, but
for decades people who are smarter than you
have looked into it.
It's time you knew it.

Will Marconi lived in Italy.
He sent Morse Code three hundred feet.
Then three years passed, and it was me who
made a voice transmit across the distance of three blocks.

But first Heinrich Hertz of Germany
learned of the waves of electricity.
He made a ring detector and he
paved the way for clever people like myself and others like Marconi.

Marconi (Instrumental)
Kyle Stedman

"The Radio Amateur's Trance Book"

The Radio Amateur's Trance Book
Courtney Danforth

di-di-di-dit dah-dah-dah di-di-dah dah, di-dah-dah di-dit di-dah-dit dit di-di-dit dah-dah-di-di-dah-dah, di-dah, di-dah-dah dah-dah-dah di-dah-dit dah-di-dit, di-dah di-di-dit, dah dah-dah-dah, dah di-di-di-dit dit, di-di-di-dit di-dit di-di-dit dah dah-dah-dah di-dah-dit dah-di-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah di-di-dah-dit, dah di-di-di-dit dit, di-dah di-dah-dit dah, di-dah dah-dit dah-di-dit, di-dit dah di-di-dit, di-dah-dah-dit di-dah-dit dit di-di-dit dit dah-dit dah, dah-di-dit di-dah dah-di-dah-dah, di-dah di-dah-dah-dit di-dah-dah-dit di-dah-di-dit di-dit dah-di-dah-dit di-dah dah di-dit dah-dah-dah dah-dit [etc.]

On SoundwritingWill Burdette