David Bowie’s ‘cut-up’ method of writing lyrics.
David Bowie will be remembered for his music, being a singer, a songwriter, musician, record producer, painter, actor. For me, it was his dedication to creating art and for being avant-garde artist who has already impacted several generations and created new genres of fashion, music, and culture. Bowie almost single-handedly created the category of “art rock” with his application of avant-garde techniques to conventional song structures and rock ‘n’ roll attitudes.
I remember seeing an inspiring video clip of David Bowie describing how he used the “cut-up” technique to write some of his lyrics. I have hunted around and, although I didn’t find the one I was looking for, I found another and I am very happy to share it with you all. (link below).
wikipedia: “The cut-up technique (or découpé in French) is an aleatory literary technique in which a text is cut up and rearranged to create a new text. The concept can be traced to at least the Dadaists of the 1920s, but 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.”
Bowie further explained his use of cut-ups like this: “You write down a paragraph or two describing different subjects, creating a kind of ‘story ingredients’ list, I suppose, and then cut the sentences into four or five-word sections, mix ‘em up and reconnect them.” The technique allows songwriters, he says, to “get some pretty interesting idea combinations,” even if they “have a craven need not to lose control.”
I use the cut-up technique a little differently. This is what I do:
- I have a shoe box full of cuttings.
- It could be a part of a newspaper, magazine, diary, poetry, short story, novel or any other source of text.
- You can start your shoebox today. I promise you won’t regret it. in a few months you will open it and go back into a daydream that will bring you to a very happy place. Add to it whenever you get something interesting to add.
- When you are ready to make a collage, open the shoebox and put all the pieces into a hat and draw them out at random.
- Arrange the images together and see what message they are giving.
- Glue them to the page
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