At a surrealist rally in the 1920s, Tristan Tzara offered to create a poem on the spot by pulling words out of a hat. A riot ensued and Andre Breton expelled Tzara from the movement.
In the 1950s the painter and writer Brion Gysin started to cut newspaper articles into sections and rearranged the sections at random. "Minutes to Go" resulted from this initial cut-up experiment: unedited and unchanged cut-ups which emerge as coherent and meaningful prose. Gysin introduced the writer William S. Burroughs to the concept; the pair later applied the technique to printed media and audio recordings alike in an effort to decode the material's implicit content, hypothesizing that such a technique could be used to discover the true meaning of a given 'text.' Burroughs also suggested cut-ups may be effective as a form of divination.
The form has since been appropriated, consciously or not, by musicians working in sample-based genres such as Hip Hop and Electronic Music; DJs especially value "digging," or spending hours in record stores looking for lp records featuring obscure breaks, vocals, and samples to meld together in new compositions. The pop-artist David Bowie is also an adherent of the cut-up method in the construction of many of his lyrics.
Dada Dodo is software that does cut-up theory on sample text given to it.