Brion Gyson

Life
1916-1986; inventor of ‘cut up’ and music sampling technique adopted by William Burroughs; b. England, son of Swiss father and Irish mother; ed. Canada; studied at Sorbonne; drawings included in the Surrealist Exhibition with Picasso, Duchamp, Magritte and Man Ray; American conscript during WWII; studied Japanese calligraphy; wrote study of slavery as To Master a Long Goodnight (q.d.); awarded Fulbright to Europe; travelled to Rif Mts. in Morrocoo to hear Master Musicians of Jajouka; brought them to his restaurant “1001 Nights”, in Tangiers; introduced Brian Jones to Jajouka, 1968, leading to Jones Presents the Pan Pipes of Jajouka; adopted the epigram of Hassan is-Sabbah (“The Old Man of the Mountain”, fndr. of 10th c. Hashisheen): ‘Nothing is true, everything is permitted’; followed Burroughs to Paris, 1958; settled at Beat Hotel, 9 rue Git le Coeur; practiced mirror-gazing; sliced a pile of newspapers with a Stanley blade and produced his First Cut-ups, eliciting the remarks from Burroughs, ‘You’ve got something big here, Brion’; joined by Ian Sommerville and produced Nothing Left Here But the Recordings, and Break Through in Grey Room; films incl. Towers Open Fire!, The Cut-Ups, Bill and Tony; induced drugfree ‘high’ using his Dreammachine, a strobescope within a holed cylinder emitting light at the same rate as the alpha rhythms of the brain; his attempts to secure patents for same backfired and led to acrimonious differences with others in the avant garde; issued his last book The Bardo Hotel; operated for colonic cancer, 1975; died of cancer in Paris (‘I am but a Gruyère cheese’); left the painting Calligraffiti.

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Works
Jason Weiss, ed., The Brion Gyson Reader (Wesleyan UP 2002), 354pp.; The Process [1969] (Woodstock, NY: Overlook 2002), 320pp.; also The Last Museum (1986); To Master - A Long Goodnight (1946) [Gyson’s biography of the real Uncle Tom]; Terry Wilson, ed., Here to Go, with add. texts by William Burroughs (London: Creation Books 2001) [taped interviews].

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Criticism
Joseph G. Ambrose, with Terry Wilson, Frank Rynn, Man from Nowhere: Storming the Citadels of Enlightenment with William Burroughs and Brion Gysin (The Gap: Subliminal Books 1992), n.p.; review of Here to Go, in Independent [UK] (12 Sept. 2001), p.9.

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