The use of randomness in the arts
This is an essay I wrote in 1985, about links between sound and vision, or multi-media as we most often call it now. It is somewhat dated now, due mainly to the fact that I was studying Video Art which seems somewhat pass? and er… eighties theses days, but there is still some good historical stuff here. (still in progress, as I OCR’ed it and there may be some errors)
My interest in chance came about out of necessity rather than by design, and mainly in two distinct ways. The first being its use as a method of producing automatic images with no idea attached to them (other than the concepts of randomness).
The feeling everyone has of being uninspired and hence depressed and therefore lethargic, therefore uninspired… can be countered instantly by using a system (be it action painting, video feedback, or random photocopying) for the rapid production of work. This initial random work, of which much is useless becomes the inspiration for ideas which lead to other things. Works produced by sticking down random words out of newspapers can suggest ideas for photographs, films, poems, paintings etc. (The ‘script’ for the film I am working on at present was achieved by this method, the cut-ups were rearranged many times, more were done and some discarded, until tenuous links between them showed themselves and an abstract ‘story line’ was achieved). –
The second way that I have come to use chance in my work, has been it’s use as a tool for making decisions. On the spur of the moment a law or set of rules are established, which you decide to adhere to – a sort of Dadaists constructivism.
For example – the next colour I will apply to this canvas will be the next colour I see when I look out of the window! (Blue!).
OR… I have three versions of the next shot in this film to edit and I will open this book at random to find a page number which contains either the digits 1, 2 or 3 but never more than one. – (Page 624 therefore I will use shot number 2:)
Of course I don’t take the result too seriously – I can change my mind if aesthetically the colour or shot doesn’t work, however it is a useful tool if a decision has to be made, but the outcome isn’t critical.
I find extremely humorous the results of cutting up newspapers until they don’t actually make sense. Sentences can emerge from the juxtapositions that conform to a form of English Grammar.
Most monks entertain gorgeous Gold Miners
Dim Smoke in Daughters Delight
The interest in chance and randomness has been used by many artists and designers in all forms of Media. Matisse used cut-up pieces of coloured paper which he stuck down where they fell, Pollack instigated hundreds of artists to pierce holes in paint tins and buy bicycles, Salvador Dal! and Luis Bunuel wrote the script for ‘Un chein Andalou’ using various random methods. The Dadaists embraced chance as the one over-riding philosophy of their movement, and William Burroughs (who developed the cut-up and fold-in techniques of Brion Gysin) suggested ways in which you could use cut-ups to change (and see into) the future!
Every tenth word.
My rather automatic uninspired instant feedback. This the produced ideas for achieved times between the chance tool a decide example will the book either or number seriously – or if isn’t stream of sense. I short Gold interest artists cut where buy for embraced and techniques use rather ideas example or short techniques.
During World War 1, Zurich, was a mask and costume much of which blocks the letterpress furniture and produced works designed to fulfil this poetry which made the public audience go wild, laughing, interest in chance qualities rather than their meaning. Twelve years before Balls recitation a painter, his pictures being a combination of script, design and frame-work of space and in it, I write in psychology and worked in
a variety of times, comparable to Kafka and Joyoe rearranging them in a random way. Certain discoveries about control writing such as photography, film and a technique for producing events according to location. Control in the real world including starting a fire in the kitchen, start fights which later turns out to be transplanted onto monkeys bodies.
During World War 1, Zurich, was a haven for refugees from every European country and formed the ideal place for their demonstrations against war, chauvinism and outworn aesthetic traditions. A group was formed by the poets Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings the painter, sculptor and poet Hans Arp, and the poet Tristan Tzara; all of which had the same ideas and political beliefs as each other. At the beginning of 1916 Hugo Ball hired an empty room at the ‘Meierli’ public house, Spiegelosse 1 in Zurich, here he opened a cabaret with his wife Emmy Hennings.
At first the ‘Cabaret Voltaire’ was purely a meeting place for Balls friends, who all contributed to the programme. As time went on, the cabaret developed into part art gallery, part concert hall and part cafe. By way of a programme the artists presented strange works never before seen or heard. Noise music, simultaneous poems read by four to seven voices speaking one against the other; bizarre dances in grotesque masks and costumes, were interspersed with readings of strange sounding German and French sound verse, and solemn recitations of texts by Jalcob Boehme and Zaotse.
The confusion and anarchy which the artists would perform every week, was often enough to make the audience fight, jeer and throw bottles, but other times the audience would be tamed by maybe one thing that they enjoyed and anything which followed would be cheered and applauded wildly.
“The realisation that reason and anti-reason, sense and nonsense, design and chance, consciousness and unconsciousness belong together as necessary parts of a whole – this was the central message of Dada”
Dada Art and Anti Art
In his poetry, Tristan Tzara, produced work which although mostly composed of complete nonsense, meaningless and childlike, was at the same time evocative and full of bizarre imagery, much of which was humourous.
What he did in his writing he also translated into visual terms using the lead letters of the printing press.
‘Une nuit d’echecs gras’ a page designed by Tristan Tzara for the magazine 391, has remained an archetype of this genre.
This disorganised muddle of words a deliberate jumble, a real old ragbag of typefaces have made the typographers of the period sit down and weep is not without beauty and attracts the eye while discouraging us from actually reading it’.
Letter and Image p235
Of course Dada had much to thank Futurism for, such as the literary products which were so important to Dada were taken from Futurism. The aggressive direct approach to the public, the provocation’s, the manifestos and their visual format. The free use of typography, in which the compositor moves over the page vertically and horizontally and diagonally, jumbles his typefaces and makes use of stock pictorial blocks and the letterpress furniture itself – all this can be found in Futurism years before Dada.
“Marinetti and his disciples, Soffici, Boccioni, Cara, Russolo, Cangiolo, etc aimed to destroy syntax by arranging the nouns according to where they happened to have originated; to do away with the adjective and the adverb, to replace punctuation with mathematical and musical signs, to throw the orchestration of the images into confusion, indicate the weights of objects and their smell to invent untrammelled imagination to kill solemnity and brazenly to make literature ugly. They proposed to hate cleverness and to tighten up thought; to reject the curved line and condense metaphors. This futuristic revolution was to reject the idiotic and nauseating concept of making use of graphic analogies and abstract onomatopoeia, to forge a new type of expressive typography which, together with a sort of lyrical intoxication was destined to liberate words”.
Letter and Image p224
The fundamental difference between Dada and Futurism was that futurism had a programme and produced works designed to fulfil this programme. Dada not only had no programme, it was against all programmes. Unhampered by tradition, Dada expounded its theses and anti-theses.
Tzara wrote in one manifesto:
“I smash drawers, those of the brain and those of social organisation: Everywhere to demoralize, to hurl the hand from heaven to hell, the eyes from hell, to set up once more, in the real powers and in the imagination of every individual the fecund wheel of the world circus”.
Dada Art and Anti Art
At one of the Dadaists events at the Dada Gallery in Berlin in June 1917, Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara introduced a new art-form which Ball had been working on which carried his quarrel with language to its logical conclusion.
In his diary for 5th March 1917 he wrote:
“….the next step is for poetry to discard language as painting has discarded the object, and for similar reasons. Nothing like this has existed before”
Dada Art and Anti Art
The whole evening was devoted to this new form of poetry which made the public finally conscious of it.
“In these phonetic poems we want to abandon a language ravaged and laid barren by journalism. We must return to the deepest alchemy of the word, and leave even that behind us, in order to keep safe for poetry its holiest sanctuary”.
Dada Art and Anti Art
Ball was dressed for the event as an obelisk made from shiny blue cardboard with a high, blue and white striped witch doctors hat. He was carried out onto the stage and placed behind a music stand containing his manuscripts.
“gadji beri bimba glandridi loula lonnicadori gadjama gramma berida bimbala glandri
– galassa laulitalomini gadja beri binblassa gbassala laula lonnicardorsu – sassala bim
gadjama tuffm i zimzalla bimban gligia
– wowolimai bin beri ban
o katalominal rhinocerossola hopsamen
– laufitalomini hooogadjani
bluku terullala blaulala looooo……. “
The audience went wild laughing and applauding madly. Ball continued in a voice similar to the religious chanting of the church, in order that he might keep a straight face.
This event however was to signify the end of Balls association with the Dadaists. The paths along which Tzara was leading Dada were not for him “I have examined myself carefully, and I could never bid chaos welcome”. (1)
Dada’s interest in chance and the unpredictable came about by Hans Arp ripping up a drawing he had been unsatisfied with, and throwing the pieces to the floor where he was struck by the pattern they formed. It had the expressive power that he had been trying to achieve.
“Was it the artists unconscious mind, or a power outside him, that had spoken? Was a mysterious collaborator at work a power in which one could place one’s trust? Was it part of one’s self, or a combination of factors
quite beyond anyone’s control?”
Dada Art and Anti Art
The conclusion that they drew from this was that chance must be recognized as a new stimulation to artistic creation. It became the one control theory from which all following works were derived.
In literature it was left to Tzara to take chance to its logical or illogical conclusion. As all words have meaning designed for practical use, he devised a way of arranging words that would use the words for their aesthetic qualities rather than their meaning. They cut up newspapers into tiny pieces, put the words into a bag, shook them well, and allowed them to flutter on to a table. The arrangement (or lack of it) in which they fell constituted a ‘poem’, which was intended to reveal something of the mind and personality of the author. Much interest was generated in this new form of poetry and a few unconnected people began to experiment with similar techniques.
Christian Morgenstern however published a phonetic poem entitled “Das grosse Lalula” twelve years before Balls recitation at the Dada Gallery.
Kroklokwatzi? Semememi’. Seiokrontro – prafriplo: Bifzi, bafzi, hulalomi: auasti best! bo…..
Morganstern went on to produce a poem called ‘Fisches Nachtgesang’ which was completely composed of metrical signs arranged in the shape of a fish. Kurt Schwitters and Raoul Hausmann were also following the same lines of thought “the poem is an act consisting of respiratory and audive combinations, firmly tied to a unit of duration” Hausmann wrote in his Courrier Dada “In order to express these elements typographically I had used letters of varying sizes and thicknesses which thus took on the character of musical notation. Thus the optophonetic poem was born.
The optophonetic and the phonetic poem are the first step towards total non-representational, abstract poetry”. (1)
Kurt Schwitters was primarily a painter, his pictures being made of cardboard, wood, wire and broken bits and pieces. Although his work was unreservedly in the best traditions of Dada he was never quite a part of any of any of the Dadaist groups which by then (1918-1920) had spread to all the major cities in Germany.
However his long friendship with Raoul Hausmann began in 1918 with Schwitters asking Hausmann whether he could join the Dadaists. Hausmann introduced Schwitters to the Berlin Dadas and their long collaboration began. They worked together on many projects, travelled together and appeared together at Dadaists events. Schwitters contributed to Hausmann’s “Der Dada” magazine and Hausmann to Schwitters “Merz” magazine.
Their collaboration continued until 1939 when they lost touch with each other. However in 1946 Moholy Nagy sent Hausmann Schwitters addresses in the Lake District of England. By correspondence they again began working together on a project which became known as Pin. This small book of their poetry and word experiments was eventually published in 1962. It took so long partly because of their difficulty of finding a publisher, but mainly because of their insistance that everything had to be just right. They used a system of mutual editing where Hausmann checked Schwitters work and vice versa.
Hausmann’s poetry was something plucked from nowhere, he invented a new alphabet, made poems out of a series of letters without any relevance or association to any narrative or actual references of any kind.
In “The story of Pin” Jasia Reichardt says, “Words were born from him like algebraic formulae (eg ‘That is’), on-wittingly in a sense, irrepressibly in patterns and carefully selected agglomerations. His poetry reaches abstraction,….” (3)
In 1918 Hausmanns first experiments with phonetic poetry (or Concrete poetry as it became known in the 1950’s and 60’s) was mainly typographical being interested in the actual character itself and not what the letter sounded like his poems were designed rather than written. The emphasis being placed on how a character appeared on the page.
Schwitters work, which although looked quite similar to Hausmanns, was usually based on something real and familiar. His ‘Furore of Sneezing’ for example (3)
Tesch, Haish, Tschiiaa Haish, Tschiiaa Haish, Happaisch Happapeppaisch Happapeppaisch Happapeppaisch Happapeppaisch Happa peppe TSCHA.A:
I must pause to eat now but before I do here is a poem entitled ‘Hunger (the discovery of an empty cupboard)!’
n yum n
nLlgmnnmmm,…….. …….. ah?……. …..ooahhh!numguggerguggenub nubnubnubnubnubnubgugahhhhhhh?!
SH num gug IT!
mark francombe ’87
Schwitters material was very personal, intimately involved with daily emotions and his in most feelings. Letters for him were the symbols of sound – they had a connotation directly involved with life. Wheras Hausmann was more concerned with the literary exercise, the completion of experiments.
Last year I decided in a quiet moment at the end of term, that I wanted to try doing some typography (not as part of a project or for any particular reason – just for fun) using an old style letterpress with lead and wooden pieces. Having spent a year using a typesetting computer and other technology for this purpose, I wanted to discover how typesetting had been done previous to now. It was not important to me what the text said, just that I would spend my time arranging the letters in an interesting way. In order not to spend any time thinking about what to set, I just grabbed a sheet of newspaper and screwed it up and read around the edge of the ball till I found an interesting phrase, which I would then spend hours setting. Moving letters about, having words running vertically, using many different typefaces (out of necessity really, because the type cases were totally muddled!). I also came about phrases by randomly opening a German copy of a German – English dictionary that was lying by chance by the printing press, and choosing phrases that were quite humorous by their inaccuracy.
I found this a very interesting and refreshing way of working. Being totally immersed in the design/layout of the characters I began to forget what the phrases actually said and I realised what an important job the typesetter of copy in ordinary situations actually has although he is often forgotten. For the Dadaists (and modern graphic artists) the actual setting of work is often as important if not more so than what the copy says. The Dadaists were concerned with the breaking of normal conventions of layout and image – graphic designers similarly are looking for layout and images which excite and maybe perplex the reader so that their poster/book cover is more eyecatching than the next. It could be said that today’s graphics owe a lot to the Dadaists and Futurists. One only has to look at the design of many of current magazines (‘The Face’ for example, who’s design, by Neville Brody, has, influenced many copies from ‘ID’, ‘Blitz’, and ‘Smash Hits’ to even ‘Sinclair User’ monthly!) to see the great debt that we owe to Tzara, Schwitters and all.
The unabashed use of blank space, the seemingly random paste up of photos and the bizarre use of type which careers across the page at strange angles covering photos and text as if you weren’t meant to read it anyway: ID magazine often has headings which (in bent wobbly type) leave one page to be taken up again on the next page. All these techniques are now taken for granted as conventions, however the impact that the Futurists manifestos and the Dadaists publications must have had then, must not be forgotten. They were, nevertheless, not actually the first people to experiment in this field.
Guillaume Apollianaire was perhaps the first poet who succeeded in interpreting poetry as a visual form. Of course even he did not actually invent this idea, as the Aztecs and the Mayas and the Egyptians all used pictograms and ideograms etc. Also in calligraphy and printing there were many attempts to use visual figures and signs. Themerson, in his book about Apollianaire mentions a portrait of Queen Victoria composed of 173,000 words describing the history of her reign – “it took Mr. D Israel, the author, four years and seven months to engrave them.” (4) Apollianaire was (even when there is no trace of any typographical unusualness) a lyrical poet – as opposed to the futurists who came after him, who were producing manifestos, collages or pictures. His – were undoubtedly poems.
After first calling his poems ‘figurative poems’ and Ideogrammatic poems’ he settled on the title of ‘calligrams’.
Whereas the Futurists and Dadaists were very concerned with the way that the typography was used – often setting their work themselves – it appears that Apollianiare was quite happy to leave that side of things to the skill and judgment of the typesetter.
Themerson writes that he had a look at some proofs corrected by him. “He corrected his proofs heavily, in black ink, but they all seem to be wording and spelling corrections. I didn’t see any that would be asking to change the typeface, or the position of a letter, or anything connected with the layout”.
Themerson made more investigations into this and asked Pierre Albert-Birot, Apollianaires friend and publisher
“But, I persisted, the execution of an Ideogram couldn’t have been entirely anonymous. Old engravings after all, were signed by both the author and the engraver. Why should it be so different with calligrams? Surely, one need not only a master printer but a man of great sensitivity to set up a calligram in type. ‘Il pleut’, for instance, it has been reprinted and reprinted hundreds of times. From blocks. But it first appeared in your SIC, printed from type, didn’t it? Do you remember the person of the printer who did the setting up, do you remember, for instance, his name?” “Indeed I do” Albert-Birot replied “I remember very well. SIC was printed at the time by a firm that belonged to M Leve.
M Leve had already semi-retired and didn’t do the work himself. But one evening, when he was shown the original of ‘Il Pleut’, he liked it so much that he wanted to set it up himself, and he did. He started at once and worked on it all night, till the morning!” (4)
So although Apollianaire had total control over what went into his poems, they went through a stage which was totally under the influence of a third party – the typesetter, however this did not bother Apollianaire as to him the most important part of the calligram was what it said, and although he knew what he wanted it to look like, it was not critical to him.
Many conventional writers have felt the need to express what they feel by experimenting with the form of the english language. Some writers have actually invented new languages, which the reader has to master in order to enjoy the book.
Anthony Burgess in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ invented new words to complement normal English, showing how languages naturally change with time as slang words become standard. The first few pages you find difficulty in reading, until you vidie what the words mean and it becomes a malenky bit easy, oh my brothers, real Horrorshow!
‘Finnigans Wake’, by James Joyce, (which is decidedly more difficult to read) is so rich and complex that scholars have made it their lifes work to study and assimilate it. Joyce’s ‘stream of consciousness’ passages (such as the latest chapter in Ulysses) are meant to represent the way we think.
These two writers are merely the tip of the iceberg of people who have published experiments of this sort. Other people I could mention are (here comes everybody) Jack Kerouac, Gertrude Stein, Tom Wolfe, Tom Phillips, Virginia Wolfe.
As my own interest lies in the use of chance operations in the Arts, the writer who I find most fascinating, due to his random cut-up techniques in his books (although like many people I find his actual subject matter rather unappealing) is William S Burroughs.
I roll you out a bright, new cellular framework of space and in it, I write your script of space and writes in space, Art is the tail of a comet. The comet is Light. We aim to rewrite this show and there is no part in it for Hope. Cut-ups are Machine Age Knife magic, revealing Pandoras Box to be down right nasty stone age gimmick it is CUT THROUGH WHAT YOU ARE READING: CUT THIS PAGE NOW. New cellular out a bright I roll you in it I write of space and framework writes in anew. Light your script. The comet, the tail of a space, Art is this show and to rewrite is Light. We aim Hope. Cut-ups in it for there is no revealing Knife magic are Machine Age nasty to be down right Pandoras Box THROUGH it is. CUT stone age gimmick THIS PAGE READING CUT WHAT YOU ARE now no part in it I rout a Machine Age Knife frame of space Box to be your new age gimmick space tail. YOU ARE READING is Light to new, there is ups.
Cut bright in it are Machining revenge and writes Pandora nasty Light Comet WHAT PAGE THIS write this show NOW for Hope roll you cellular magic framework of write down right script in is. CUT ART is the comet CUT. We aim and..
William Burroughs was born in 1914 in St Louis Missouri. He graduated in English Literature in 1936. He studied phycology and worked in a variety of jobs including a private detective, a bar tender, a pest exterminator, a factory and office worker and as a newspaper reporter. In Mexico he killed his wife with a revolver while playing at William Tell, but he was released after a few days.
He spent a long time in Tangiers, and he travelled to Mexico to take Yage, during this period he became addicted to drugs, so he flew to London to be cured by one Dr Dent who was experimenting with new techniques such as waking suggestion and placebos and the drug apomorphine.
He was cured and wrote the ‘Naked Lunch’ as a direct result of his cure.
His subject matter varies between straight forward narrative, near autobiographical reminiscence and the seedy, surreal mythology of places and characters he has created out of his own colourful, but by no means pleasant, personal experiences. John Calder has said of him “He has created an important body of work which has given him the stature of one of the leading creative writers of the present time, comparable to Kafka and Joyce among his predecessors. Although many disagree with Norman Mailers statement that he is possibly the only living American Writer of genius, the remark has been much quoted and is beginning to stick”.
The famous fourteen-week correspondence in the Times Literary Supplement which followed publication of Dead Fingers Talk, Burroughs literary debut in Britain was initiated by John Willet who reviewed the book anonymously in that paper under the heading “Ugh!” thus exemplifying clearly the simplistic and philistine approach of most of the British literary establishments.
William Burroughs is renowned for his writing techniques such as cut-ups and fold-ins, which he used on A Naked Lunch without the awareness of the method he was using. “The final form of Naked Lunch and the juxtaposition of sections were determined
by the order in which the material went at random to the printer”. (6) he wrote in the “Cut-up methods of Brion Gysin”.
The actual technique which was discovered by Brion Gysin, simply involves the cutting of pages of text into various sections
and rearranging them in a random way. In ‘Brion Gysin let the mice in’ Brion Gysin explained how he arrived at the technique.
“While cutting a mount for a drawing in room 25 (of the beat hotel in Paris), I sliced through a pile of newspapers with my Stanley blade and thought of what I had said to Burroughs some six months earlier about the necessity for turning painters techniques directly onto writing. I picked up the raw words and began to piece-together texts which later appeared as first cut-ups in ‘Minutes to Go’ At the time I thought them hilariously funny and hysterically meaningful. I laughed so hard my neighbours thought I’d flipped. I hope you may discover this unusual pleasure for yourselves – this short lived but unique intoxication”. (7)
Minutes to go.
the hallucinated have come to tell you that your utilities are being shut off dreams monitored thought directed
sex is shutting down everywhere you are being sent
all words are taped agents everywhere marking down the live ones to exterminate
they are turning out the lights
no they are not evil nor the devil but men on a mission with a spot of work to do
this dear friend they intend to do on you
you have been offered a choice between liberty and freedom and NO! you.cannot have both
the next step is everyone into space but it has been a long dull wait since the last tower of babel
that first derisive visit of the paraclete
let’s not hear that noise again and again that may well be the last word anywhere
this is not the beginning in the beginning was – the word the word has been in for a too long time
you in the word and the word in you
we are out you are in we have come to let you out
here and now we will show you what you can do with and to the word
the words any words all the words
Pick up a book any book cut it up cut it up
prose poems newspapers magazines the bible the koran – the book of moronic lao-tzu
the bhagarad gita anything
business correspondence ads
all the words
slice down the middle dice into sections according to taste
chop in some bible
pour on some Madison Avenue
shuffle like cards toes like conffetti taste it like piping hot alphabet soup
pass your friends letters your office carbons through any such sieve as you might find or invent
you will soon see just what they really are
saying this is the terminal method for finding the truth
piece together a mastorpiece a week
use better materials more highly charged words
there is no longer a need to drum up a season of geniuses be your own agent until we deliver
the machine in commercially reasonable quantities
we wish to announce that while we esteem this to be truly the American way we have no commitments with any government groups
the writing machine in for everybody do it yourself until the machine comes hera is the system according to us
Jan Herman summerised the work of Burroughs and Gysin by saying “Those first cut-ups tested the potency of words. Further investigations tested the influence of other sensory inputs. Ian Summerville and Brion Gysin designed and built a Dream Machine on which a patent was granted in 1961. William Burroughs explored a vast subject throughout the sixties. He formulated, described and applied to his literary word, certain discoveries about control – of consciousness and society – through sound and image. Certainly it is difficult to think of any writer of fiction who paid so much attention to theorizing the discrete psycofactive suggestiveness of words. Those authors may have begun with artistic intentions but they got scientific results”. (7)
Gysin said that everyone should indulge in cut-ups at all time.
“(Gysin) was basically trying to find out what really happens with words. He had the theory that if you keep abusing them and mutilating them and chopping them about, the future leaps through. He used to say that you can find out what people are really saying. For instance if you read a newspaper article, its propaganda, but if you cut it up and keep cutting, you can often find out what they are really saying behind all the words. In this way your destroying the power of the word as a divine thing by insulting it and throwing it around and putting it in the wrong place. You also get incredibly evocative phrases that are very poetic, or make you think of interesting images”.
Genesis P Orrige ‘Red Ronnies Bazzar No 3
Cabinet takes up the battle against Aids
A NEW high powered Cabinet Committee specifically set up to tackle the first growing Aids crisis will meet for the first time this week. The establishment of the ad hoc Cabinet Committee is the clearest signal that Aids is now at the top of the Government’s agenda.
the Cabinet takes up against Aids battle
tackle the growing Aids crisis will signal that Aids is now at the top Committee specifically set up to Cabinet Committee is the clearest meet for the first time this week. A NEW high powered Cabinet the establishment of the ad hoc of the Government’s agenda.
uainst Cab battids he tak p ag3.net Ale tkes
he clearest crisis will high power The establishment for the first time. A NEW signal that this week Aids is now at the top. Set up to meet of the Government of throwing A tackle the gents age. specifically Cabinet Committee is the ad hoc Cabinet Committee
William Burroughs is nothing if not thorough in his experiments with cut-ups. He has tried using other media than writing such as photography, film and sound. Infact some of his most interesting work has stemmed from his work with tape recorders.
“A technique for producing events and directing thought on a mass scale is available to anyone with a portable tape recorder or a car to transport recorders. The basis of this technique is Waking Suggestion first used by Doctor John Dent of London who also introduced the Apomorphine treatment for alcoholism and drug addiction. Waking Suggestion is the technique used in playback of pre-recorded tapes in the street, cocktail parties, bars, stations, airports, parks, subways, political rallies, theatre intermissions etc.
People do not hear consciously the taped suggestions because their attention is directed towards something else: crossing the street, catching a train, listening for plane call,
listening to speaker, looking at TV, talking to companions.
The volume of the tape is adjusted to street sounds, speech level and so forth. A well constructed suggestion tape will have pre-recorded street sounds or whatever cut in according to the location……” “…..Any suggestion tape is made more effective if it contains contradictory commands. Stop. Go. Wait here. Go there…
These commands are constantly being imposed by the environment of modern life. If for example your suggestion tape contains
the phrase: “Look at that light in front of you…. STOP.. Stay here …. Go…Be over there,” and is played back to people waiting at a stop light THEY ARE FORCED TO OBEY THE SUGGESTION YOU ARE MAKING. “Its like giving someone a sleeping pill without his knowledge and then suggesting sleep.
Any contradictory suggestion at the unconscious level produces a moment of disorientation during which your suggestions take effect.
Furthermore, contradiction suggestions are an integral function of human metabolism ….. “Sweat, Stop Sweating, Salivate, Stop
William Burroughs –
“Brion Gysin let the mice in”
Burroughs has made hypothesise about tape recorders and their use with control in the real world, including the CIA’s use of bugging during the Watergate affair. He has put his theories into practice to study the results. He tells of one sample operation carried out against the ‘Moka. Bar’ at 29 Frith Street in 1972.
“Reason for operation was outrageous and unprovoked discourtesy and poisonous cheesecake. Now to close in on the Moka. Bar. Record. Take pictures. Stand around outside. Let them see me. They are seething around in there. The horrible old proprietor, his frizzy haired wife and slack jawed son, the snarling counterman. I have them and they know it.
“You boys have a rep for making trouble. Well, come on out and make some. Pull a camera breaking act, and I’ll call a bobby. I got a right to do what I like on a public street”. If it came to that, I would explain to the policeman that I was taking street recordings and making a documentary of Soho. This was after all Londons first expresso bar, was it not?
I was doing them a favour. They couldn’t say what both of us knew without being ridiculous “He’s not making a documenta ry. He’s trying to blow up the coffee machine, start a fire in the kitchen, start fights in here, get us a citation from the Board of Health”.
Yes I had them and they knew it. I looked in at the old proprieter and smiled, as if he would like what I was doing Playback would come later with more pictures. I took my time and strolled over to the Brewer Street market, where I recorded a three card monte game. Now you see it, now you don’t.
Playback was carried out a number of times with more pictures.
Their business fell off. They kept shorter and shorter hours.
October 30, 1972, the Moka Bar closed. The location was taken
over by the Queen’s Snack Bar”.
Playback from Eden to Watergate The Job 1974
I have already mentioned Burroughs belief in divination by cutting up words so much that something suggests itself to be important, which later turns out to be true. I am personally not convinced by this – I think that it is just the same as when I read yesterdays horoscope in the paper and I read into it everthing that makes sense, ignoring the bits which don’t.
In ‘Cities of the Red Night’ (1981) – Burroughs most recent novel – the private investigator Clem Snide, uses a tape recorder like a note pad, as part of his investigations into the disappearance and death of young Jerry Green.
“I recorded a few minutes in all three rooms. I recorded the toilet flushing and the shower running. I recorded the water running in the sink, the rattles of the dishes, and the opening and closing and hum of the refrigerator. I recorded on the balcony. Now I lay down on the bed and read some selections from !The Magus’ into the recorder”. (11)
Everthing he thinks he records, everything he reads and every where he goes, building up a picture of his feelings and the lost days of Jerry Green’s life. He only has one tape so that when he finishes it he returns to the beginning and records
on it cutting; into the previous recording at random. He records an article from the Sunday Times about monkeys heads being transplanted onto monkey bodies, the article says “Technically a human head transplant is possible”, Dr White says “but scientifically there would be no point!” (11)
It turns out later that Jerry Green’s decapitated body is discovered. In actual fact Clem Smides tape recorder methods are really just a form of lateral thinking, helping him to think of alternatives that he would not normally think of.
Burroughs novels, writings and experiments have instigated many writers, artists and musicians to make experiments of their own. Psychic TV are a television station, a band, a video company, and almost have their own religion, known as ‘Thee Temple of Psychick Youth’.
They were formed by Genesis P. Orridge after the break-up of
his previous band Throbbing Gristle, where he became interested in the works of Burroughs, Gysin etc. Where in Throbbing Gristle they made experiments with found tapes, bugging, and noise, in Psychic TV he has formulated his philosophies and ideas and intends to spread the word, via music, TV and video.
Psychic TV Transmissions
“These are intended for the instruction of the Psychic Youth! They are celebration of experience, provocations of thoughts, image, sound and Spirit, integrated as information and not as entertainment.
Psychic TV is not intended to be a replacement for conventional programming, but rather the first step towards a de-programming. We do not accept the pre-occupations of institutionalised TV with it’s redundant assumptions about entertainment and value. With Psychic TV we use and exploit the way such TV is seen and used by our generation. Raw material to be used and manipulated by the viewer’.
Genesis P. Orridge The Final Academy Statements of a mind
Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV have both used Burroughesque ideas in their music using systems, and random techniques for producing sound, any sound that might be used would be deemed to be music. In Throbbing Gristle this often (in live performance) would result in a distorted wall of noise!
Although Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle would come under the general title of Rock music there are many composers of modern classical music who have been interested in the concept of chance and in determinacy of their compositions.
In Steve Reichs ‘Pendulum Music’, he set up a system which the performers would initiate and then leave letting chance and gravity do the rest. Three microphones are swung on their leads over their respective loudspeakers so that as they pass over they feed back.
As the microphones swing with their own momentum they produce ever shifting rhythms of feed back, and as they get lower over the loudspeakers they produce more noise, until they are totally static and producing a screaming wail of feed back noise.
In a similar way Brian Eno produced his ‘Discreet Music’ by a system of tape recorders (originally used by Terry Riley and then adopted by Robert Fripp, when it became generally known as Frippertronics!). Eno said on the sleeve notes of the album
of the same name on the ‘obscure’ record label.
“Since I have always preferred making plans to executing them
I have gravitated towards situations and systems that, once set
into operation, could create music with little or no intervention on my part. That is to say, I tend towards the roles of the planner and programmer, and then become an audience to the results”. (13)
Probably the most important figure in music and chance must be John Cage, the American Composer and Philosopher. The son of an unsuccessful inventor, Cage studied with Schoenberg, who described him as ‘not a composer, but an inventor – of genius’. He had a varied career he taught in Maholy Nagys Chicago School of Design, has collaborated with the dancer Merce Cunningham and founded the Project of Music for Magnetic Tape, he was a pioneer of mixed media performance art and became the leading exponent of musical chance and indeterminacy.
Cage’s electronic works divide into those which are notated, usually by chance methods, and those consisting of a performance in which various events are allowed to occur. Many combining the two. The “Imaginary Landscapes” series and Variations I – VIII explore various aspects of musical performance with little intervention on the composers part. Imaginary Landscape No 4 was indeterminate in its composition, by the use of chance operations in deciding a rhythmic scheme. Since it could not be predicted what would be on the radio, it was also indeterminate in it’s execution.
“Credo in us” (1942) used a notated rhythmic structure prepared in advance by tossing coins (using the ancient Chinese oracle methods of the 1 – Ching).
The concept of indeterminacy, which in it’s simplest definition means a musical operation, the outcome of which is not known in advance, is central to an understanding of Cage’s work and that of many of the subsequent electronic and experimental composers in America.
Finding that conventional methods of composition and performance with an emphasis of “self expression” through melody and harmony too restricting, Cage applied Eastern aesthetic concepts to his work. He felt that there was a liberating effect in removing self, in the form of individual decisions, from some of the processes of music. One way in which this could be achieved was in the acceptance of chance as part of composition or performance.
In his 4′ 33″-, the performer sits at an open piano and plays nothing for four minutes and thirty three seconds and any sounds that occur in the auditorium are deemed part of the performance, whether they be coughs, talking, police sirens outside or heckling from the audience. Cage said that the only requirement for a musical performance is that there is an audience, since sounds are occurring continuously. (Cage’s discovery in the totally echoless, soundproof room called anechoic chamber that there is no such thing as silence, is something that he has often referred to in his writings).
More typical of Cage’s compositions ‘Cartridge Music’, dating from 1960. The piece is for performers on gramophone cartridges, into which instead of needles an object such as a toothpick or pipe cleaner has been inserted. The cartridge then becomes a highly sensitive microphone, amplifying what ever it touches, in the same way as it would a record. The score consists of twenty sheets of blob-like shapes, a sheet of instructions and four transparent sheets, one of which has a circle marked like a stop watch, one with dots, one with circles and one with a dotted line. With these materials each performer makes his own part by placing the sheets on top of each other and performing in certain ways according to the intersections of the dotted line with a point within a shape indicates that a sound is produced in any manner on the object inserted in the cartridge (each cartridge being represented by a shape). Cage does not specify what sounds are to be made, although the specification of the equipment used ensures that they will mostly consist of noise. Cage covered himself by pointing out that all ordinary thought to be undesirable are to be accepted in this situation!
If there is one thing you can say about John Cage and William Burroughs, that is that they have both begun from an initial in chance and the unpredictable and have both taken that interest as far as it can go. (but they are still taking it further).
I think what I find most fascinating is that so much work can come out of literally nothing. The finished results can often bear no similarities to the first random experiments, but through continued working and mutation of the idea, complex and valid, and often brilliantly inspired results can be as potent and meaningful as if a carefully worked out plan was executed from the beginning.
Letter to Mr and Mrs Francombe dated July 1969.
Mark is a delightful little boy with a ready sense of humour. He is a very happy and co-operative member of class with much more confidence in himself.
His reading is progressing well, due to your co-operation and help at home, and his number and written work are very satisfactory.
Mark joins in well now, with the other children, both in class and in the playground and rarely needs the comfort of being near the adult in charge.
I’m looking forward with enjoyment to his next term at school.
Yours sincerely P E Waller (Class Teacher)
Sheet County Primary School Petersfield Hants
P.S. Why not?
1 Dada – Art and Anti Art – Hans Richter
2 Letter and Image – Massin
3 Pin and the Story of Pin – Raoul Hausmann and Kurt Schwitters
introduction by Jasia Reichardt
4 Guillaume Appolinaire – Themerson
5 A William Burroughs Reader – edited by John Calder
6 The cut up methods of Brion Gysin – William Burroughs
7 Brion Gysin let the mice in – Brion Gysin
8 Red Ronnies Bazzar No 3 – Genesis P. Orrige
9 Daily Express (April 87)
10 The Job – William Burroughs
11 Cities of the red night – William Burroughs
12 The Final Academy – edited by Genesis P. Orrige
13 Discreet music (Record Sleevenotes) Brian Eno