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wikipedia on Brion Gysin

Brion Gysin (January 19, 1916 - July 13, 1986) was a writer and painter.

He is best known for his rediscovery of Tristan Tzara's cut-up technique 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.

As a joke, he contributed a recipe for marijuana fudge to a cookbook by Alice B. Toklas; it was unintentionally included for publication, becoming famous under the name Alice B. Toklas brownies.

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.

In the early '60, together with Ian Sommerville, he built what is called the Dreamachine, a device meant to be viewed with the eyes closed. on Brion Gysin

Brion Gysin lived an extraordinary life, constantly searching for the hidden. As painter, poet, novelist, inventor, historian, performer and catalyst, Gysin used simple techniques to enchant his works toward revealing unnoticed plaes of experinece within. Most often an art work would fuse two or more elements from his repertoire of acquired disciplines.

His necessity for experimentation with an overwhelming passion to "free the word" led to the invention of the cut-up method of writing. By treating segmented pages of text as collage material, the new arrangements created limitless possibilities of preose. A second seminal technique pursued by Gysin was of a more focused and elegant nature: the permutation. By taking a single phrase and running through all existing possibilities of order, whole realms of implied meanings became apparent.

From working on canvas and paper, Gysin took the obvious continuation of his ideas to audio tape. With the help of mathemetician Ian Sommerville, cut-up and permutated recordings demonstrated the true potential of those theories. Audio cut-ups presented the startling impact of linking words, sounds and time through juxtaposition. The development of the audio permutiation poem added variablility through spacing and inflection which provided characteristics that were impossible on the printed page.

In 1960, Gysin was asked to present sound works for broadcast on the BBC. Among those recorded for the event were "iam that i am," "recalling all active agents," and the "pistol poem" which differed by permutating recordings of a gun firing at varying distances.

Being consistently misunderstood throughout his career, Brion Gysin's Dream Machine went largely unnoticed. This spinning, flickering cylinder was designed to affect the alpha rhythms of the human brain, allowing access to one's inner visual capacities. The first object-kinetic sclpture to be viewed with your eyes closed. Gysin spoke of flashes of memory and 360 degree visions with the clarity of projected film after extended use.

Permutation is a technique commonly used by avant-gardes and above all, and systematically, by the American writer Gertrude Stein. It is possible to permute sentences, words within a sentence, syllables and phonemes within a word. Permutation is a typically modern device and considerable use was made of it in the plastic arts by the constructivists. In fact it permits the complete exhaustion of all the possible combinations within a given choice of material, without limit of number. The Englishman Brion Gysin, one of the founders of the beatnik movement and inventor of such new formulas as the collage-novel, has composed his phonic texts on this principle. "I am" is a classic of the genre. Composed exclusively of permutations of the biblical words "I am that I am", with ever more marked accelerations, he succeeds in rendering, from the initial nucleus, a crowd of "I am"s, the creation of the world in geometrical progression until it fades away in the sidereal silence. "Pistol-Poem" (1960), ermutation for voice and pistol shots, is based on a number of pistol shots fired one, two, three, four, five times simultaneously, while the author, in the typical tone of a sergeant-major, orders the shots as if on parade. "No, poets don't own words" and "Junk is no good baby", both composed in 1962, follow the same principle.

William S. Burroughs "The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin"

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