"I was in a position to dismantle it": Industrial Appropriations of William S. Burroughs




Vecchio, Joseph

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Industrial music, contains many extra-musical influences, not the least of which is literature, and, since the formation of Throbbing Gristle (1975), one of the most pervasive influences is the writer William S. Burroughs, specifically his famous cut-up method. Burroughs has often detailed his pedagogy of the cut-up as applied to the written word and sound recordings. While most sources on industrial music do acknowledge Burroughs’ influence, they do not conduct deep readings of Burroughs in order to link specific instances in his work to particular instances in industrial music. In this thesis I will explore how industrial music, especially in its first and second waves, reflects the ideas of William S. Burroughs as both a compositional and philosophical pedagogy. The ramifications of Burroughs’ writings will be explored and deciphered as they relate to industrial compositional processes such as the cut-up method, sampling, and the use of such technologies as tape recorders and studio effects. Through examining the music, lyrics, writings, and visual art of various industrial artists and connecting them to the writings and audio experiments of Burroughs, I argue that early industrial artists have appropriated Burroughsian ideas into their music and culture as a modus operandi. Much more than being merely appropriated, though, I will show that Burroughs’ ideas are pedagogical in the sense that they laid a framework for the way in which industrial musicians composed using the cut-up method. To support this claim, I will link specific Burroughs passages and ideas with specific instances in industrial music that reflect those passages and ideas.



industrial, music, Burroughs, Skinny Puppy, Throbbing Gristle, SPK, cut-up method, sampling|musicology


Vecchio, J. (2014). "I was in a position to dismantle it": Industrial appropriations of William S. Burroughs (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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