For several years I have been working on a number of song texts which are the result of applying cut-up techniques, similar to those used by William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and British artist Tom Phillips, using two of Thomas Pynchon’s novels, Gravity’s Rainbow and V, as source materials. Both novels that are set in the years of the second World War, when I was born.
The technique is one of erasure, choosing words at random from a page and stringing them together, leaving out the words in between to make a whole new text with a completely different meaning.
Once the texts are completed I then attempt to perform them as songs but with no pre-conceived form or musical accompaniment. The music, both vocal and instrumental backing, is improvised during the performance rendering each performance unique. I also re-arrange the text sometimes even knitting two or more sets together or leaving out sections.
It was only recently I discovered that there is actually a school of writers that utilise this method of generating texts. When I told a friend that I had stopped writing songs at one point because I thought there were already enough in the world, he sent me to Kenneth Goldsmith’s book Uncreative Writing – Managing Language In The Digital Age. In the introduction Goldsmith writes –
“In 1969 the conceptual artist Douglas Huebler wrote “The world is full of objects more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” I’ve come to embrace Huebler’s ideas, though it might be re-tooled as “The world is full of texts, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” It seems an appropriate response to a new condition in writing today: faced with an unprecedented amount of available text, the problem is not needing to write more of it; instead we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists. How I manage it, how I parse it, how I organise and distribute it – is what distinguishes my writing from yours.”
I had been introduced to the school of un-creative writing and had not realise that I was already a member and had been for several years, several c.d.s and many concerts and I continue to be today. The video above is a version of The Migrant Song, recorded in Beirut and released on my Radio Paradise c.d. on the Lebanese Johnny Kafka label, which was constructed using this method.
A live performance extract shot in at an ‘Under House Concert’ near Kuranda in tropical north Queensland, Australia. The first three minutes is a de-constructed version of a song by Van Dyke Parks titled Movies Is Magic followed by three Spirit Songs.
SPIRIT SONGS LIVE IN MADRID
An earlier concert version which actually features part of The Migrant Song improvised to become a completely different version. Recorded live in Brisbane in Australia by Lawrence English. The activity to my right hand side is not a video but the street outside on a friday night in Brisbane.
SPIRIT SONGS LIVE IN ITALY
Some of the first versions of Spirit Songs were played on acoustic guitar and recorded for my BLUE GUITAR c.d. on my own HIPSHOT c.d.r. label
and on the LIVE IN ATHENS and LIVE IN SARDINIA c.d.s also on HIPSHOT