Pay Back Your Stolen Colours

by Günther Berkus

  • Streaming + Download

    Includes high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more. Paying supporters also get unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app.

    I am "An Old Busker": I used to play music in the streets ... and I see my Bandcamp pages as an extension to busking. The streaming music is free for listening as you are passing by, or you can (but don't NEED to) drop me a few Euro and take it away with you in highest fidelity to burn yourself CDs or to add to your digital music collection. I don't believe there are many places where you can "buy" something for nothing ...

      name your price




In the 1980s I ran a small recording studio. While working with the performance artists Brian Counihan and Tony Sheehan, they introduced me to Nova Express and the cut-up method of creating original text. I attempted to create an audio cut-up piece based on Nova Express, using tape: too much work ... but I carried on reading Nova Express forever since then.

In 1993, when I had my first computer, I extracted wave cycles from human voice recordings, copied and pasted them together hundreds of times to make notes and music, and became fascinated with the complexity of sounds in the human voice, usually unnoticed, because they come at a rate of dozens every second.

Around 2000-ish, I first heard Riverrun by Barry Truax: a granular synthesis work. Granular synthesis means copying tiny fragments of sound and re-arranging them to create original music - very much like the cut-up method of creating new text. I wanted to use granular synthesis to make a piece of music from spoken words.

Truax had the use of a mainframe system and dedicated signal processor - I manually copied and pasted grains and could not compose substantial music until desktop computers became powerful enough to automate the work. To go past the limits of available software, I needed to learn an audio programming language. Most music makers use MAX/MSP - it seemed to be the easiest for me, too.

Riverrun is inspired by Finnegan's Wake - my own piece was going to be based on Nova Express... and after A LOT of work I came up with Pay Back Your Stolen Colours: An ordering of my thoughts and feelings and ideas while reading the book, rather than a soundtrack for the text.

All the sounds you hear are re-arranged grains of recordings of some of the text, read by a man and a woman. Many thanks to Denis O'Sullivan and "Little" Forbes for the readings, and a big thank you to the estate of WSB for allowing me to use the text.

The album download also includes some short "outtakes" which did not make it into the final arrangement.


released November 3, 2014

the text:
Copyright © 1964 by William S. Burroughs
Copyright renewed © 1992 by William S. Burroughs
used by permission

Music by Günther Berkus, the curator of the Cork City Gamelan



all rights reserved


Cork City Gamelan Cork, Ireland

An experimental music project curated by myself, Günther Berkus. Go to the Web Site to find out more, and follow the Cork City Gamelan on Facebook.

Cork City Gamelan music is made from sounds scraped and beaten out of "things" around Cork City, Ireland.

Not all of my music is Cork City Gamelan music, but all of it is experimental and explores new ways of creating sounds.
... more

contact / help

Contact Cork City Gamelan

Streaming and
Download help

Track Name: Pay Back Your Stolen Colours
Listen to my last words anywhere.
Listen to my last words any world.
Listen all you boards syndicates and governments of the earth.
And you powers behind what filth deals consummated in what lavatory to take what is not yours.
To sell the ground from unborn feet forever –

"Don’t let them see us. Don’t tell them what we are doing –"

Are these the words of the all-powerful boards and syndicates of the earth?

"For God’s sake don't let that Coca-Cola thing out –"

"Not The Cancer Deal with The Venusians –"

"Not the Green Deal – Don’t show them that –"

"Not the Orgasm Death –"

"Not the ovens –"

Listen: I call you all.
Show your cards all players.
Pay it all pay it all pay it all back.
Play it all pay it all play it all back.
For all to see. In Times Square. In Piccadilly.

"Premature. Premature. Give us a little more time."

Time for what? More lies? Premature?
Premature for who? I say to all these words are not premature.
These words may be too late. Minutes to go. Minutes to foe goal -

"Top Secret - Classified - For The Board - The Elite - The Initiates – "

The basic nova mechanism is very simple:
Always create as many insoluble conflicts as possible and always aggravate existing conflicts
This is done by dumping life forms with incompatible conditions of existence on the same planet
There is of course nothing "wrong" about any given life form
since "wrong" only has reference to conflicts with other life forms
The point is these forms should not be on the same planet
Their conditions of life are basically incompatible in present time form
and it is precisely the work of the Nova Mob to see that they remain in present time form,
to create and aggravate the conflicts that lead to the explosion of a planet that is to nova

At any given time recording devices fix the nature of absolute need and dictate the use of total weapons
Like this: Take two opposed pressure groups
Record the most violent and threatening statements of group one with regard to group two and play back to group two
Record the answer and take to back to group one
Back and forth between opposed pressure groups
This process is known as "feed back"
You can see it operating in any bar room quarrel
In any quarrel for that matter
Manipulated on a global scale feeds back nuclear war and nova
These conflicts are deliberately created and aggravated by nova criminals

The Nova Mob:
"Sammy The Butcher,"
"Green Tony,"
"Iron Claws,"
"The Brown Artist,"
"Jacky Blue Note,"
"Limestone John,"
"Izzy The Push,"
"Hamburger Mary,"
"Paddy The Sting,"
"The Subliminal Kid,"
"The Blue Dinosaur,"
and "Mr. & Mrs. D,"
also known as "Mr. Bradly Mr. Martin"
also known as "The Ugly Spirit"
thought to be the leader of the mob-The Nova Mob
In all my experience as a police officer
I have never seen such total fear and degradation on any planet
We intend to arrest these criminals and turn them over
to the biological department for the indicated alterations-

The Nature of Begging

"It is a warning," said The Prince with a slow bronze smile
"We can do no more
Here where flesh circulates like clothes on stale trade flesh of Spain and Forty-Second Street
scanning pattern of legs-pant smell of The Vagrant Ball Players-"

“THE SUBLIMINAL KID” moved in and took over bars cafes and juke boxes of the world cities
and installed radio transmitters and microphones in each bar
so that the music and talk of any bar could be heard in all his bars
and he had tape recorders in each bar that played and recorded at arbitrary intervals
and his agents moved back and forth with portable tape recorders
and brought back street sound and talk and music and poured it into his recorder array
so he set waves and eddies and tornadoes of sound down all your streets and by the river of all language

Word dust drifted streets of broken music car horns and air hammers
The Word broken pounded twisted exploded in smoke-

Word Falling

He set up screens on the walls of his bars opposite mirrors
and took and projected at arbitrary intervals
shifted from one bar to the other
mixing Western Gangster films of all time and places
with word and image of the people in the cafes and on the streets
his agents with movie camera and telescope lens
poured images of the city back into his projector and camera array
and nobody knew whether he was in a Western movie in Hongkong or The Aztec Empire
in Ancient Rome or Suburban America
whether he was a bandit a commuter or a chariot driver
whether he was firing a "real" gun or watching a gangster movie
and the city moved in swirls and eddies and tornadoes of image explosive bio-advance out of space to neon-

"Boards Syndicates Governments of the earth Pay
Pay Back the Color you stole—

"Pay Red
Pay back the red you stole for your lying flags and your Coca-Cola signs

Pay that red back to penis and blood and sun—

"Pay Blue
Pay back the blue you stole and bottled and doled out in eye droppers of junk
Pay back the blue you stole for your police uniforms
Pay the blue back to sea and sky and eyes of the earth—

"Pay Green
Pay back the green you stole for your money
And you, Dead Hand Stretching The Vegetable People, pay back the green you stole for your Green Deal
to sell out peoples of the earth and board the first life boat in drag

Pay that green back to flowers and jungle river and sky—

"Boards Syndicates Governments of the earth pay back your stolen colors—
Pay Color back to Hassan i Sabbah—"