Sounding the Audiophonic Imagination

Date of Completion

January 2010


Literature, Modern|Multimedia Communications|Performing Arts




This dissertation uses both critical and creative means to engage theories of audiophonic art articulated over the past decades by artists and scholars in the field. By exploring the theories of language arts and audio production, analyzing the works of contemporary radiophonic artists, and composing several literary/audio works of my own, I link creative writing, literary theory, and media studies to show how digital technology is transforming the way we read, write, and construct identity. ^ The first section, "Writing the Tape-Recorded Life," brings together theories of autobiography and audiophony to explore how recording technologies have altered and enhanced the way we represent self. Though three examples of audio/autobiography, I examine four common thematic threads: the increased self-awareness that recording equipment elicits in a speaker; the way a voice conveys meaning through both language and sound; the broad array of sounds (intentional/unintentional) and events (planned/unplanned) that an open microphone tends to capture; and the profound insights that can result when the actual process of sound recording intercedes in the narrative. ^ The second section, "Sounding the Multitrack Imagination," begins by considering the ontological implications of Les Paul's "sound-on-sound" recording innovation of 1940s, especially its ability to multiply an individual's voice and to assemble disparate bits of time into one span. The "multitrack" recording process, I argue, allowed poets and writers to invent novel forms of expression and to transform works traditionally conceived for oral or print formats into complex soundscapes. ^ My own autobiographical, poetic, and fictional works, conceived in sound and rendered as multitrack productions, are included in both print and audio formats. These pieces help to illustrate my own artistic engagement with the theoretical issues I raise in the critical prefaces. ^