Many musicians have used Burroughs’ cut-up techniques to make music and write lyrics; Iggy Pop, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Brian Eno and Bauhaus among others. Possibly as a result, much of the lyrical output of these bands sometimes appears pretentious and impenetrable.
Bauhaus, and others, would often defend their lyrics along the lines of – ‘you need to find your own meaning’ or ‘there is no meaning’ or ‘the lyrics exist just to conjure up images’ etc. which is fair enough, but it’s also a bit of a cop out.
Books are different (obviously). There is no backing band inside a book. The words have to deliver meaning and create images at the same time. Literary images are created with metaphors, similies and other ‘interesting’ and ‘unusual’ combinations of words.
Which brings us back to cut-ups.
The cut-up technique, it seems to me, is a ‘short cut’ to discovering unusual, interesting and sophisticated snippets of word play that you are unlikely to find by staring at a wall or gawping at a thesaurus.
‘borrowed tonality’ ‘bucolic recording’ ‘depressing sipping’ ‘hostage album paddies’ ‘old rocks recover’ ‘jungle champagne’ link
‘ducts of death’ ‘like dead ears’ ‘swollen distant drumming’ ‘the bundle of the mosquito cloud’ ’empty privilege’ ‘a large squash of water pipes’ link
I’m not sure I’d want to produce an entire book using cut ups. They are one tool in a large bag. A very useful tool nonetheless, especially if you don’t happen to possess the genius of David Mitchell,
Sometimes I think that creativity is a matter of seeing, or stumbling over, unobvious similarities between things—like composing a fresh metaphor, but on a more complex scale. One night in Hiroshima it occurred to me that the moon behind a certain cloud formation looked very like a painkiller dissolving in a glass of water. I didn’t work toward that simile, it was simply there: I was mugged, as it were, by the similarity between these two very different things. Literary composition can be a similar process. The writer’s real world and the writer’s fictional world are compared, and these comparisons turned into text. But other times literary composition can be a plain old slog, and nothing to do with zones or inspiration. It’s world making and the peopling of those worlds, complete with time lines and heartache. link