Cutting Up The Cut-Up is a great documentary from BBC Radio 4 featuring many artists featured regularly on Radio Clash over the years – Cassetteboy, Vicki People Like Us, DJ Food and Matt Black from Coldcut. Even a shout-out to Negativland! It goes way back into the roots of the audio cutup, to Brion Gysin, Pierre Schaefer, and William Burroughs. (via Ian Fondue)
To see an example of this, here’s a film called The Cut-Ups by William S. Burroughs, featuring Brion Gysin and filmed by Anthony Balch in the UK in 1966, it seems to be a hypnotic mantra on film, cuts (“hello! yes! look at that picture! thank you!” as much seems to be just as much a comment to every new shot or change) and persistence of vision, with some erotic shots and calligraphy thrown in for good measure. There’s more information in this article but the most telling points is that originally this was supposed to be a film called ‘Guerilla Conditions’ (hence the writing during the film)
It also contains several sequences that are rumored to be Balch’s attempt at filming The Naked Lunch, an ongoing project that was eventually shelved as appropriate financing could not be raised. Guerilla Conditions was in fact never realized, but the footage was shot and it became the basis for The Cut Ups.
Interesting that Balch wanted to be a cinematic distributor and worked with Kenneth Anger to get the banned classic Todd Browning film Freaks re-released, and then helped Anger release ‘Invocation of My Demon Brother’ as a support feature. Interestingly this is the second Anger reference this week, with me being a bit appalled that Chemical Brothers at Glastonbury ripped off (as in recreated, rather than pay for or credit) Anger’s ‘Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome’. It worked well during their ‘I’ll See You There’ segment, and it seems they pre-announced it was influenced by Anger, but I do wonder how many Chems fans would even bother to find out. And it was pretty much shot-for-shot, there is inspiration and homage, and there is completely fucking stealing.
Anyway Balch did a few films with Burroughs and Gysin, the first being ‘Towers On Fire’
It was the latter along with Steve Reich that inspired me to make cutups while at University – originally the classic method with 1/2 inch tape and razor blade, cutting it up and splicing together randomly. I remember spending most of a day fervently splicing tape, putting it back in the tape machine and being dejected that I had at most 40-50 seconds. Took me a few days to get to 2 minutes…you had to be patient in analogue days, so much respect for the Radiophonic Workshop and the Beat poets!
I then decided to do the rest on my Amiga…cheating I know, but a lot easier with sample looping, although you miss some of the essential ‘random’ nature that way, the ‘Cut [ing] into the present the future leaks out’ that Burroughs talked about. But certainly I come from an older cut-up heritage, so mashups made total sense to me.