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Cut-Up And Fold-In Techniques

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Considering the number of lyricists on these boards who express an interest in more abstract writing I am surprised that there is so littlle discussion on using either cut-up technique or fold-in technique and how to make the most of them.

David Bowie has used cut-ups since the early 70s and the technique influenced the songwriting of Kurt Cobain. Thom Yorke used a similar method in Radiohead's Kid A album. They wrote single lines, put them into a hat, and drew them out randomly while the band rehearsed. On other albums too I think

  • Cut-up - Take a finished, totally linear text and cut it into pieces with a few or single words on each bit. The resulting bits are then rearranged into new text.
  • Fold-in - Take two pages of linear text (same linespacing), fold each page in half vertically and combine each with the other, then read across the combined page.

Now edit to improve the flow and intergrity of the lyric

I'd be interested in hearing how people get on with either or both techniques. They can produce some interesting results, particularly when you combine these techniques with other techniques taking advantage of allegories and metaphors, for example.

What's your opinion of these techniques?



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I've not tried either of these techniques, John, but I intend to now. I'll post what I come up with (if it's anything of interest). I think they're excellent ideas.

One excerise I love is to take randomly generated phrases/lines and then stitch them together to create a half-way coherent story.

When I take part in the FAWM (February Album Writing Month) or 50/90 (50 songs in 90 days) challenges, I head straight to the "Muse Titular Tool" if I'm running short of ideas. It saves the day every time.


Another fun random titles/ideas generator is (now corrected link):


Throw any piece of text into the "Translator" window, hit "Translate", and see what zaniness emerges. Not everything is useful, but now and again intriguing lines are thrown up that elicit out-of-the-box visual imagery.


Edited by DonnaMarilyn
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I just tried this with a lady friend who happened to be over at the time - Here's what we came up with:

My dreams are made of papermaché

Come help me paint them they seem kinda gray

My sheets whisper, please come stay again

Though I know water can't hold my weight

i'm just glad my world hasn't yet fell apart

My bones are all hollow, my heart is pumping air

It was I who left, when I wanted to stay

I promise you, you're more than a friend

Though for many years I kept you at arms length

I asked, where does creativity come from?

A clever man said, "it's chemicals in your brain"

I said, you must be insaine i've got a girl who does it for me

Be he replies, "Sir, I don't quite understand"

"Science explains all but why do we hold hands?"

So I gave him some wisdom for the troubles he'd had

"That's when that person you searched for's finally been found"

Just two verses - rather impressed with how complex some very simple lyrics became with the cut up technique =]

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Nice one Alex!

Thanks for the links Donna

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