Writing Machine

Nicolas Bernier

Writing Machine

  • Nicolas Bernier
  • Year of composition: 2005
  • Duration: 15:28
  • Instrumentation: 8-channel fixed medium
  • Publisher(s): Ymx média
  • Commission: ZKM
  • ISWC: T9021630240

Writing Machine is inspired by the American writer William S Burroughs and by some similarities between his writing method and electroacoustic composition. The starting point was his “cut-up” technique, which consists of taking several text sources, cutting some parts of text, and reorganizing them into new structures and getting a new text. So I applied Burroughs’ technique to his own words focusing on the notion of language deconstruction. I have used the words for their material, morphological and musical properties rather than only for their semantic qualities.

The following quotation from Robin Lydenberg’s text Sound Identity Fading Out William Burroughs’ Tape Experiments summarizes my intention:

[…] Burroughs’ tape cut-ups often produce an assaultive pulsation […] leaving the listener unable to construct context, linear sequence, or even syntax from what he hears and thus liberating him or her from these imposed patterns of thought. As he (Burroughs) explains in The Ticket That Exploded, “The content of the tape doesn’t seem to effect the result”; the power resides instead in the rhythm, in patterns of alternation at specific intervals.

Aside from spoken words, Writing Machine is built around the sounds of writing machines. Sounds that have been electrified, metalized, pulsed and distorted in order to create the sound universe evoked by my reading of Burroughs’ books.


Writing Machine was realized from December 2004 to February 2005 in the studios of the Université de Montréal and of the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe (ZKM, Germany). The work premiered on February 10, 2005 during the trans_canada festival in the ZKM_Kubus in Karlsruhe (Germany). The piece was commissioned by the ZKM and made possible with the support of Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ) and the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. Thanks to Ludger Brümmer, Sabine Breitsameter, the entire staff at ZKM, Université de Montréal, and André Garant (recorded voice).


  • February 10, 2005, trans_canada: Générations • Generationen • Generations, ZKM_Kubus, Karlsruhe (Baden-Württemberg, Germany)