The cut-up technique is a random approach where text is cut up and rearranged to create a new set of text. The technique is thought to have first been used by Europe’s avant-garde art movement in the 1920s where during a Dadaist gathering poet Tristan Tzara created a poem on the spot by pulling words at random from a hat.
Writer William S. Burroughs popularized the approach in the late 1950s and early 1960s applying it not only to written words, but also to words spoken and recorded onto reel to reel tape machines, and the technique has continued to be utilized other art forms.
David Bowie used cut-ups to create some of his lyrics. The technique influenced the songwriting of Kurt Cobain, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke used a similar method for the bands Kid A (2000) album by pulling single lines of lyrics out of a hat.
HOW IT’S DONE
The Cut-up: Take a finished and fully linear story or poem and cut it in pieces with a few or single words on each piece. Then rearrange them to create a new version. Another approach is simply to cut a completed page of text into four equally sized sections and then to rearrange them randomly.
The Fold-in is a similar technique done by taking two sheets of linear text with the same formatting, folding each sheet in half vertically and combining with the other, then reading across the resulting page.
Obviously the process may render an unreadable gaggle of nonsense. Quite often, however, by simply adding punctuation and deleting words, you will discover an amazing transformation. While Burroughs had once claimed that it was possible to predict future events using cut-ups, it is certain that you will at least gain new insights to your work on very deep levels, which may inspire purposeful edits and revisions to the original piece. Moreover, it’s a damn fine way to break the monotony and to have a bit of fun.
Read more from The Lazarus Corporation offering information on the cut up process and an application that will do the cutting up work for you on their Text Mixing Desk.
Try another Cut-Up application HERE