09/07/2012

Rare recordings of William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin are released by the British Library


The Spoken Word: William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin

The British Library has today published a new audio CD, The Spoken Word: William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin, to coincide with a major new international exhibition, ‘Cut-ups, Cut-ins, Cut-outs: The Art of William S Burroughs’ at the Kunsthalle, Vienna. The recordings selected for inclusion are rare items sourced from the British Library’s own collections. Most have never been published before.

The disc brings together the American writer William S Burroughs and British-born artist Brion Gysin, the man Burroughs credited with the invention of the 'cut-up' literary technique. The centre-piece of the collection is a complete, previously unissued recording of Burroughs reading live in Liverpool in 1982. The disc also includes performances by Gysin of a selection of his 'permutated poems', and previously unheard home recordings made by the pair in Paris in 1970.

The introductory essay accompanying the CD has been written by Prof. Colin Fallows, Professor of Sound and Visual Arts at Liverpool John Moores University. Prof. Fallows is Curator of the exhibition ‘Cut-ups, Cut-ins, Cut-outs: The Art of William S Burroughs’, which runs at the Kunsthalle, Vienna from 15 June to 21 October 2012.

This disc is the latest release in the British Library’s highly-acclaimed ‘Spoken Word’ series, featuring historic recordings of English-language writers and poets. Previous releases in the series have included Graham Greene, Aldous Huxley, and Bob Cobbing, and compilations devoted to British and American writers (including William S Burroughs) and science fiction writers.

Steve Cleary, Lead Curator Drama and Literature Recordings at the British Library, said:

“Burroughs and Gysin were artistic collaborators as well as friends, so it is fitting that they should share a disc. The British Library recording of Burroughs live in Liverpool in 1982 will not have been heard by many, and it is as satirically biting and caustically humorous as you might hope, and audibly well-received by an enthusiastic audience. The 'permutated poems' of Brion Gysin, taken from original tapes now stored at the British Library, will not have been heard in this sound quality before. The CD ends with a short sequence of previously unissued home recordings made by the pair in Paris in 1970.”

Notes to Editors:

The Spoken Word: William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin is published by the British Library on 9 July 2012, price £10.00. The disc contains 23 recordings, duration 66 minutes (ISBN 978-0-7123-5124-9). The recordings are copyright of the British Library Board.

The CD is available from the British Library Shop (tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7735 / e-mail: bl-shop@bl.uk) and online at www.bl.uk/shop

Track Listing The Spoken Word: William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin

Track 1

Title: The Beginning is also the End (excerpt)

Speaker: William S. Burroughs

Recording date: c. 1963

Duration: 1' 20"

First published in the Transatlantic Review, Number 14, Autumn 1963


Tracks 2-10

Burroughs reading at the Centre Hotel, Liverpool

5 October 1982:

Speaker: William S. Burroughs

Duration: 42'18"

Burroughs reads from his work, including excerpts from the novels The Place of Dead Roads and Nova Express, and the story 'Twilight's Last Gleamings', written in collaboration with Kells Elvins in 1938.


Track 11

Title: Cut-Ups Self-Explained

Speaker: Brion Gysin

Recording date: c. 1960-1962

Duration: 3' 50"


Track 12

Title: I am this painter Brion Gysin

Speaker: Brion Gysin

Recording date: c. 1960-1962

Duration: 2' 05"


Tracks 13-18

Titles: Pistol Poem / I've Come to Free the Words / No Poets Don't Own Words / Calling All Reactive Agents / Junk is No Good Baby / Kick That Habit Man

Speaker: Brion Gysin

Recording date(s): 1960-1962

Duration: 10'00"


Track 19

Title: I Am That I Am

Speaker: Brion Gysin

Recording date: 1962

Duration: 3'05"


Tracks 20-22

Title: Invisible Art (three versions)

Speaker: William S. Burroughs

Recording date: 22 March 1970

Duration: 2'40"


Track 23

Title: 'Silky supple mirrors to be folded...'

Speaker: Brion Gysin

Recording date: 22 March 1970

Duration: 1'00"

For more information contact:


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