Brion Gysin

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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:

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 alto-sax player, Steve Lacey.