American writer William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) is considered to be one of the early practitioners and founders of modern day mash-up or remix culture. What relevance does he have today?
Burroughs used the cut-up and fold-in techniques in his fiction, most notably in ‘The Soft Machine’ (1961), ‘The Ticket That Exploded’ (1962) and ‘Nova Express’ (1963). He credited his friend and collaborator Brion Gyson (1916-1986) with creating the cut-up technique. Gysin’s ‘Minutes to Go’ cut-up poem was broadcast by the BBC in 1960. Gysin helped Burroughs expand these techniques to combine text with images, paintings and sound – multimedia.
Cut-ups put the emphasis on random text generation, juxtaposition and chance rather than on the writer as sole creator. As cut-ups may include text and material from other writers and artists it adds huge importance to the writer’s ability and skills as an editor. Back in the 1960s this was a radical new technique used only by a few and now, with the proliferation of digital technology and content, almost everyone can have a go.
Interesting Fact: William Burroughs appears on the cover of The Beatles’ album, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.
To find out more about William Burroughs click here…
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