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Mister Pink

The Disintegration Loops by William Basinski

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Mister Pink

Thought I'd share some nice music. Or the decay of music. Completed on the morning of September 11th, New York City, these disintegrating tape loops that loop over and over withering way over time. It's haunting and beautiful at the same time. 


From Wiki:


In the 1980s, Basinski recorded from found sound sources, shortwave radio, and delay systems, influenced by musicians such as Steve Reich and Brian Eno. Decades later, while transferring the recordings from magnetic tape to a more reliable digital format, Basinski found that the tape had deteriorated sufficiently that as it passed the tape head, the ferrite detached from the plastic backing and fell off. He allowed the loops to play for extended periods as they deteriorated further, with increasing gaps and cracks in the music. He further treated the sounds with a spatializing reverb effect

Basinski finished the project the morning of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, and sat on the roof of his apartment building in Brooklyn with friends as the towers collapsed. He filmed video footage of the attack's fallout during the last hour of daylight from a roof, and the following morning he played "Disintegration Loop 1.1" as a soundtrack to the aftermath. Stills from the video were used as the covers for the set of four CDs, and several weeks later Basinski used a post-script in his liner notes to dedicate the work to the victims. He stated that "the events gave new meaning to the musical pieces created by catastrophic decay in my studio a few weeks before".

On the afternoon of September 11, 2011, Basinski's work was performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as a live orchestration to mark the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.





I first heard of these tapes from a Radiolab podcast but then it came up in a trailer for a Tim Heidecker film called The Comedy which reminded me of them. 


It's really interesting work. It's quite visceral when you relate it to the context that the artist filmed the aftermath of September 11th from his roof in Brooklyn and then composed these pieces as a soundtrack to it. And music, so revered by us all. And you can hear it, in real time, decaying. Just like a loved one, or family. We all decay and die. Just like this piece of music. 


A link to the Radiolab podcast that featured this work. 


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It's a great project. I first got hold it whilst I was in college and I had discovered the world of ambient music. Obviously I started at Eno, but I felt like I was missing out. I then went on to discover what's known as "lowercase", a rather pretentious name for music that skirts the line between what is deliberately contrarian and enjoyable. I was blown away some time afterwards to discover I had only heard the first part, or disc, if you like. I had no idea there were four parts to this. I think what lends credibility to this is how well the music stands up when you remove the lore behind it. The idea of these men listening to this passion project on the eve of 9/11 is haunting, but if you weren't aware of this, would the music still be good? I think so. I don't think I was aware of the tragic undertones when I heard it for the first time, but I was really into the idea of music literally rotting in front of me. It felt so temporary, and that I was lucky to hear this at all. In a way, it's this kind of experience that shaped my interest in music production. Going forward I've been making music of my own on and off for nearly ten years and I've always tried to find new and exciting ways to both produce and consume it. I don't know much of that I owe to Basinski but I'd like to think he's somewhat responsible, however indirectly.



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