Ian Sommerville (technician)

Ian Sommerville (1940-1976) was an electronics technician and computer programmer. He is primarily known through his association with William S. Burroughs's circle of Beat Generation figures, and lived at Paris's so-called "Beat Hotel" by 1960, when they were regulars there, becoming Burroughs's lover and "systems adviser".

Sommerville was educated at the King's School, Canterbury, and at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Around 1960, he programmed a random-sequence generator that Brion Gysin used in his cut-up technique. He and Gysin also collaborated in 1961 in developing the Dreamachine, a phonograph-driven stroboscope described as "the first art object to be seen with the eyes closed", and intended to affect the viewer's brain alpha wave activity.

Sommerville and Burroughs made the 5-minute tape "Silver Smoke of Dreams" in the early 1960s, and later provided the basis for the quarter-hour audio "cut-up" and "K-9 Was in Combat with the Alien Mind-Screens" around 1965. The following year Sommerville also installed two Revox reel-to-reel machines for Paul McCartney in Ringo Starr's apartment at 34 Montagu Square, Marylebone, London, and recorded Burroughs on the machine.

Sommerville along with Gysin and Burroughs collaborated on Let The Mice In, published in 1973. Burroughs' book My Education: A Book of Dreams, indeed largely composed of accounts of his dreams, includes dreams of talking with Sommerville. He died in a single car accident due to inexperience near Bath, England in 1976 shortly after obtaining his first driving licence.

Famous quotes containing the word sommerville:

    Americans are notorious for looking to their children for approval. How our children turn out and what they think of us has become the “final judgment” on our lives. . . . We imagine that the rising generation is rendering history’s verdict on us. We may resent children simply because we expect a harsh judgment from them.
    —C. John Sommerville (20th century)