by Eabha Rose
(share from Plum Tree site)
“The deep parts of my life pour onward, as if the river shores were opening out. I feel closer to what language can’t reach. With my senses, as with birds, I climb into the windy heaven… in the ponds broken off from the sky..” Rainer Maria Rilke
I was reminded of this powerful Rilke quote when I reflected recently on my teen years and the hours spent making soundscapes through cutting up songs and pieces of music and stringing them together to create something new. I now see that it was an attempt at reaching beyond the arrangements, breaking them apart and rebuilding them with the teenage dream of touching the mystical and finding new meanings.
‘At fifteen, my passion was creating my own music cassettes, recording my favourite bands and (as teenagers do), playing them over and over until I knew every word and note by heart. I started to experiment with cutting up pieces of music and sound and static and creating audio stories. I would use people’s voices, household sounds, traffic sounds and string them together. The stories for me were mostly built around spirits and visits from other realms. In a sense, I conjured up stories and then built sci-fi soundscapes around them. I think I hoped that in some way my creations would open a portal through which I would be inspired and maybe even informed. I suppose I was looking for messages and of course for escape.’
It is a process I was to later return to using the cut-up technique whereby pieces of text are cut up and re-arranged to create a new piece of work. It was used by Dadaists of the 1920s and was popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by writer William S. Burroughs, and has since been used in a wide variety of contexts. Gysin introduced Burroughs to it at the Beat hotel and later, together, they applied the technique to printed media and audio recordings. Bowie also experimented with it. Burroughs was one of many artists who gave it a mystical quality. He saw it as a form of divination, saying, "when you cut into the present, the future leaks out'. Artist Taylor Ellwood (magicalexperiments.com) talks of the process as a ‘rewrite of reality’ - 'First I’d cut-up the conventional reality that had already been created, and then reform it into my own collage message to the universe, complete with a reformatted space and time. The universe has always been kind enough to respond'.
With renewed fascination, I travelled to London's Horse Hospital last year and met writers and artists, Joe Ambrose, Antony Hitchin, Nina Antonia and Jerome Alexandre whose interest in the technique inspired Cut-Up! - an anthology featuring new and historic cut-ups.
During last years Tom Cat Festival in Limerick, Mikael Fernstrom and Sean Taylor of Soft Day recorded my cut-up poetry during a live improvisational performance at Dr John’s, accompanied by flautist, Niall Keegan and sound artist, Robin Parmar. It was a particularly interesting experiment in that we were actively involved in the process of interpreting and recreating words and music live.
Below is a little excerpt from Soft Day’s, Amhrán na mBeach (Song of the Bees), and as explained by Soft Day, is 'based on four years of scientific data about bee diseases and colony losses in Ireland. Soft Day created musical scores for the Glenstal Abbey Choir, organ and the Irish Chamber Orchestra. A sound art composition was also created by the Softday Apiary Ensemble, based on field recordings carried out by the participating beekeepers in their respective habitats'.