The Cut Up Technique in Music

Many of us consider music a form of art.

There have been many forms of art that have inspired music.

Traditionally stories were told from “Once upon a time” to “They all lived happily ever after.” Song writing was traditionally approached in a similar way.

Visual art was were the dissociation from a straight interpretation really began.

Cubism was the first form of art to do this, to ignore form and break it up into fragments.

Dada was a further rebellion from the literal forms of art. Literally introducing collage into the world of art.

In the Dada Manifesto, Tristan Tzara writes

“TO MAKE A DADAIST POEM Take a newspaper. Take some scissors. Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem. Cut out the article. Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag. Shake gently. Next take out each cutting one after the other. Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag. The poem will resemble you.”

Dada was such a DIY approach to art that it was very quick to evolve into Surrealism.

Surrealism like Dada was against rationalism and for disorder but aimed to explore dreams and interpreted them through art. Employing the aesthetics of Dada with a more classic visual approach.

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness”

Allen Ginsberg

The Beat Generation was when these aesthetics and ideas really came into literature.

Brion Gysin through experimentation found that when he took his own writing, cut it up and reworded it that he was channelling something deeper. But it was William Burroughs who really took the Cut Ups to their logical conclusion. Taking whole pieces he'd written, cutting them up in segments and reworking them. Burroughs believed that the word was a virus and that through deconstruction we would escape it's power over us and find our true selves.

Burroughs ideas are all through our culture.

Cut Ups are everywhere. Sampling is a cut up, turntablism is a cut up, film editing is a cut up.

But my focus today is on musicians who were directly influenced by the idea of the cut up and use this technique in their creative process.

I have curated the playlist below to show case the diverse ways that the cut up technique can be used when applied to music.

To examplify the aesthetics and technique of the Cut Up. I made this following Pros, using lyrics from the songs in the playlist.

Locked in tomorrows double feature

The movie kept moving as planned

Started laughing hysterically

You've got the attraction

We can make a scene

The obituary mambo

Like butterflies, blind

The Shadow is cast

When I see you angry

It makes me want to kiss you

Give me money, give me sex

Today's scrambled creatures

Like pigs in a sty

I'll Put you in a box

Send you up to heaven

Pretty little police man

You let your knickers down

Flesh makes a stretch

Alive yet unaware

Wearily we come unwound

Dragnets will pull you in

I'm worse at what I do best

Forgive my slightly shifting lines

I've got sand in my mouth

We are not lovers

You've got sun in your eyes

If the Sun could melt like snow

I would run to you

Flow into you

We are not romantics

But who the fuck am I to care?

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