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"Recent research into the structure of brain rhythms suggests that it is in a state of relaxation of thought that new relationships can be seen." - Brion Gysin
Brion Gysin is regarded as one of the most influential and visionary of living poets and painters. In 1958, a chance encounter with William Burroughs on the Place St. Michel in Paris resulted in him moving into the famous Beat Hotel at no. 9 rue Git le Coeur in the Latin Quarter. He confided to Burroughs his inventions, the Cut-ups and Permutations, and thus began the most important collaboration in modern literature.
A naturalized US citizen of Swiss extraction, Gysin was born in Taplow House, Taplow, Bucks, UK. After the loss of his father when he was nine months old, his mother took him to New York to stay with one of her sisters and then to Kansas City, Mo., to stay with another. He finished high school at the age of fifteen in Edmonton, Alberta, and ws sent for two years to the prestigious English public school, Downside. While there, Gysin began publishing his poetry before he went on to the Sorbonne. In Paris, he met everybody in the literary and artistic worlds. When he was nineteen, he exhibited his drawings with the Surrealist group, which included Picasso on that occasion.
Gysin is an entirely self-taught painter who acquired an enviable technique without putting foot in an art school or academy. At the age of twenty-three he had his first one-man show in a prestigious Paris gallery just off the Champs Elysees. It was a glittering social and financial (even a critical) success, with an article in Poetry World signed by Calas. But it was May, 1939. World War II caught Gysin in Switzerland with an overnight bag. When he got to New York, everybody asked: "How long you been back?"
In the summer of 1959 Brion Gysin painter and writer cut newspaper articles into sections and rearranged the sections at random. "Minutes to Go" resulted from this initial cut-up experiment. "Minutes to Go" contains unedited unchanged cut-ups emerging as quite coherent and meaningful prose.
Brian Jones had found Jajouka through Brion Gysin in the sixties, at a time when everyone else was looking to India for mesmerizing trance rhythms. The repetitive sound-structures of the Master Musicians have so much in common with the beat and melody of rock music that it felt totally natural to play with them. There were no egos involved, nor any need to address the great divide between us, in culture, age, or sound.
- Lee Ranaldo's (of Sonic Youth) Moroccan diary
The painter Brion Gysin (1916-1986), rediscovered Tristan Tzara's cut-up method while cutting through a newspaper upon which he was trimming some mats. He did several experiments with cut-ups while living in Tangiers. He shared his discovery with his friend William S. Burroughs, who put the technique to good use and altered the landscape of American literature:
Burroughs' extensive use
of cut-ups in _Nova Express_, _The Ticket That
and other books made the method highly controversial in the literary
There was some talk to the effect that Brion was a bad
a keef-crazed, razor-wielding, dada-spouting
anarchist whose high-art theorizing was corrupting an authentic
voice. In time,
cut-ups became enshrined as an alternative strategy for dealing with
studied and employed by poets and novelists and even playing a
in pop music, as a lyric-writing aid or inspiration for, among
David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards .
From Robert Palmer's forward to Gysin's _The Process_ (New York: The Overlook Press, 1987).
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. Many of these permutations were worked out using a random sequence generator in an early computer program written by Ian Sommerville. Gysin also experimented with the technique of permutation on recording tape, by splicing together the sounds of a gun firing recorded at different amplitudes in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and producing 'Pistol Poem.' This piece was subsequently in 1960, used as a 'leitmotiv' for all the performance in Paris of Le Domaine Poetique, a showcase for experimental works by people like Gysin, Françoise Dufrêne, Bernard Heidsieck, and Henri Chopin.
"Magic, practiced more assiduously than hygiene in Morocco, through ecstatic dancing to the music of the secret brotherhoods, is, there, a form of psychic hygiene. You know your music when you hear it, one day. You fall into line and dance until you pay the piper."
"The painting of Brion Gysin deals directly with the magical roots of art. His paintings are formulae designed to produce in the viewer the timeless ever changing world of magic caught in the painter's brush - bits of vivid and vanishing detail. . . . The pictures constantly change because you are drawn into time travel on a network of associations. Brion Gysin paints from the viewpoint of timeless space."
- William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, _The Third Mind_ (New York: Seaver Books, 1978).
Brion Gysin, _The Last Museum_ (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1986).
_RE/SEARCH #4/5 A Special Book Issue: William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Throbbing Gristle_, edited by Vale (San Francisco: RE/SEARCH, 1982).
Steve Lacy & Brion Gysin, Songs (Therwil/Switzerland: hat Hut Records, 1 LP & 1 S, hatArt 1985/86).
CD A} Brion Gysin - _Self-Portrait Jumping_ off
of _Made to Measure_ (MTM 33 CD), 1993.
+ From the disc itself: "Brion Gysin's songs, poems and stories, set to music by Ramuntcho Matta, [music] performed by Brion Gysin and Ramuntcho Matta with Don Cherry, Elli Medieros, Steve Lacy, Lizzy Mercier Descloux & Caroline Loeb, Abdoulaye Prosper Niang, Polo Lombardo, etc." Only the first half of the disc contains any significant musical accompaniment, the latter half is either minimally accompanied or backed by subtle music.
B} Brion Gysin, Recordings 1960 - 1981,
+ This 63 minute CD features original material recorded by Gysin from his earliest experiments in audio cut-ups to interviews in his final years. From the Perdition Plastics page: "This unique documentary is the world's first comprehensive look into the works of Brion Gysin, one of the centuries greatest visual and audio artists. As a surrealist painter, poet, novelist and audio experimenter, Gysin, would influence the most creative minds of the 60's and 70's. This release contains audio cut-ups and permutation poems that still demonstrate their startling impact today as they did in 1960. Also included, are converstations in topics such as Modern Art, the Dream Machine, Jean Genet
and others, allowing a rare glimpse into the mind of a fascinating artist."
A} The Last Museum. New York: Grove Press, 1986. Hrdbck, Paperback.
+ Gysin's last novel, featuring a cover by
Haring and an introduction by W.S. Burroughs: "This is a guidebook,
a map. A guidebook for the period between Death and Rebirth. Brion Gysin has written a modern Book of the Dead.
His vision is very special indeed." [Grove Press, Inc., 920 Broadway, New York, NY 10010.]
B} Stories. Oakland, CA: Inkblot, 1984. Paper. [439 49th Street, Apt 11, Oakland, CA 94609.]
+ Seven short stories from 1942-1951.
C} The Process. New York and London, 1969. Reprinted by Quartet Books and Paladin Grafton Books.
+ A novel.
D} Minutes to Go. Beach Books, 1968.
+ Featuring contributions from W. S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Sinclair Beiles, and Gysin.
E}Here to Go: Planet R-101. London: Quartet Books, 1982.
+ Intended as an introduction to Gysin, this
is primarily one long interview by Terry Wilson with Gysin on a
variety of topics. Plenty of photos, caligraphy, artwork, and an introduction by W.S. Burroughs. Perhaps the best
introduction to Gysin, his work and his thought.
F} Joe Ambrose, Terry Wilson, Frank Rynne, Man
From Nowhere: Storming the citadels of enlightenment with
William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Subliminal Books, 1992.
+A hodge-podge of collected thoughts and ramblings about Burroughs and Gysin. Very artfully done.
G} The Third Mind
first mention of Brion Gysin in Usenet:
Subject: The words
Date: 1983-04-05 22:28:39 PST
Rub out the word...Out-word rub Thee...The Rub-out word...Word out-rub Thee...Word rub Thee out...Out the Rub-word...Rub out the Word... ...such was the process...