Playing With Words

Playing With Words: The spoken word in artistic practice

Publication, Composition, Audio Compilation, Symposium, Journal and Conference Papers

Edited by Cathy Lane


Book published by Research Group for Artist Publications (RGAP), Cornerhouse Publications, (1st edition ) and Uniformbooks(2nd edition)
Audio compilation available from Gruenrekorder as a double CD and audio download

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council

Playing with words: The Spoken word in artistic practice (2008) edited by Cathy Lane emerged from her own compositional practice with spoken word. The book  is an anthology of works from over forty leading contemporary sound artists and composers who use words, particularly spoken words, as their material and inspiration.

Each invited contributor responded with a work for this edition, revealing a rich variety of artistic approach and exploration of the spoken and written word communicated through sound poetry, interviews, creative writing, visual-textual pieces and performance scores. Cathy interviewed  Laurie Anderson, Pamela Z, Trevor Wishart, Paul Lansky for the publication.

Contributors: Alessandro Bosetti, Ansuman Biswas, Barry Truax, Brandon LaBelle, Brown Sierra, Charlotte White, Clive Graham, David Toop, Dirk Huelstrunk, Ellen Moffat, Imogen Stidworthy, Iris Garrelfs, J Milo Taylor, Jaap Blonk, Joan La Barbara, Joerg Piringer, John Wynne, Julian Weaver, Katharine Norman, Larry Wendt, Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Language Removal Services, Laurie Anderson, Leigh Landy, Michael Vincent, Nye Parry, Oliver Brown, Pamela Z, Paul Lansky, Salomé Voegelin, Sianed Jones, Sten Hanson, Sue Tompkins, Thomas Gardner, Tomomi Adachi, Trevor Wishart and Viv Corringham.

Book Reviews

"...captures numerous valuable snapshots of activity in areas that are often only semi-visible...." - The Wire 

“Back in 1965, composer, poet, printer, and early Fluxus artist Dick Higgins wrote, “Much of the best work being produced today seems to fall between media” and this couldn’t be a more relevant statement on the breadth of activity written about in Playing With Words.” - Deanna Radford, Musicworks 

Cathy Lane has produced a book that is at once beautiful, thought provoking, frustrating and instructive … it will be of great interest to to anyone invested in pushing the limits of the spoke odd as sound in all aspects of creation … Playing with Words creates an impressive bit of noise and should not be ignored. “ - T. L Cowan, Theatre Journal. 

“ … as Lane notes in the introduction, there is a social, cultural, and political power in words, as there is the opportunity for "artistic intervention" to bridge the gaps between the semantic and abstract components of words (10). This notion of power becomes a central theme of the collection.” - John F. Barber, Leonardo 

Playing With Words was featured on 'Hear and Now', BBC Radio 3 on April 11th.


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ISBN 978-0-9558273-3-4
206 pages
Available to buy from Uniformbooks

Speaking Out: The Spoken Word in Artistic Practice

An AHRC funded symposium, Speaking Out: The Spoken Word in Artistic Practice at Tate Modern in February 2010 focused on the use of the spoken word in artistic practice and its manifestations in sonic and audiovisual art works. Taking the lead from the recently published anthology of works Playing with Words: The Spoken Word in Artistic Practice, this event encompasses performances, talks and conversations by artists and researchers who employ spoken words as their material and inspiration.

Contributors included Tomomi Adachi, Caroline Bergvall, David Toop, Imogen Stidworthy, Brandon LaBelle, Oswaldo Macià, Dani Gal, Nye Parry, Inua ‘Phaze’ Ellams, Cathy Lane and Trevor Wishart.

Speaking Out: The Spoken Word in Artistic Practice was reviewed in The Wire issue 314 and is discussed extensively in Critical Practice

Recordings of the event are available on the Tate Modern website.

Playing with Words: an audio compilation

The book is accompanied by a compilation of audio work by German sound art label Gruenrekorder, available as a free online download, a CD and DVD.

The works on this audio compilation are part of an intermittent ongoing tradition of artistic investigation of spoken language. The pieces included here negotiate potential oppositions such as semantic play and abstraction, musical and narrative structures, speech and song, one voice and many. Influences have been drawn from many sources including poetry, music, song, theatre, typography and graphic art, philosophy, radio, performance art, linguistics, fine art, literature and of course the keen observation and experience of the very many varieties of human communication that we all encounter and participate in every day.

Sound artists: abAna, Alessandro Bosetti, Amanda Stewart, Angus Carlyle, Ansuman Biswas, Barry Truax, Brandon LaBelle, Brown Sierra, Caroline Bergvall, Cathy Lane, Charlotte White, Claudia Wegener, Dirk HuelsTrunk, Ekrem Mülayim, Ellen Moffat, Imogen Stidworthy, Iris Garrelfs, Jaap Blonk, John Wynne, Jörg Piringer, Julian Weaver, Julien Ottavi, Katharine Norman, Language Removal Services, Lars-Gunnar Bodin, Lawrence Upton & John Levack Drever, Leigh Landy, Lina Lapelyte, Majena Mafe, Michael Vincent, Mikhail Karikis, Nye Parry, Pamela Z, Paul Lansky, Salomé Voegelin and David Mollin, Sianed Jones, Sten Hanson, Thomas Gardner, Tomomi Adachi, Trevor Wishart and Viv Corringham.

Reviews of the audio compilation can be found on the gruenrekorder website.

Listen to the audio compilation and download online from the gruenrekorder website.