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Brion Gysin

Brion Gysin writer and painter, (1916 - 1986)

He is best known for his rediscovery of Tristan Tzara's cut-up method while cutting through a newspaper upon which he was trimming some mats. He did many experiments with cut-ups while living in Tangiers. He shared his discovery with his friend William S. Burroughs, who subsequently put the cut-up technique to good use and dramatically changed the landscape of American literature.

Gysin helped Burroughs with the editing of several of his novels, and wrote a script for a film version of "Naked Lunch" which was never produced. The pair collaborated on a large manuscript for Grove Press titled "The Third Mind" but it was determined that it would be impractical to publish it as originally envisioned. The book later published under that title incorporates little of this material.

A consummate innovator, Gysin altered the cut-up technique to produce what he called permutation poems in which a single phrase was repeated several times, with the words rearranged in a different order with each reiteration. A memorable example of this is "I don't dig work, man" (try it!)

Many of these permutations were derived using a random sequence generator in an early computer program written by Ian Sommerville.

He also experimented with permutation on recording tape, by splicing together the sounds of a gun firing recorded at different amplitudes in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop thus producing 'Pistol Poem.' The piece was subsequently used as a theme in 1960 for the performance in Paris of Le Domaine Poetique, a showcase for experimental works by people like Gysin, Françoise Dufrêne, Bernard Heidsieck, and Henri Chopin.

He worked extensively with the noted jazz soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy.


To Master A Long Goodnight
Minutes to Go
The Exterminator
The Process
The Third Mind
The Last Museum
Here To Go (Interviews with Terry Wilson)

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