In honor of the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001, let’s look back at an article originally posted in April and read about, and listen to, William Basinski’s “The Disintegration Loops.”
“I’m recording the life and death of a melody,” said William Basinski during the taping of the Radiolab podcast episode called “Everything and Nothing.”
Basinski created “The Disintegration Loops” by accident. While converting loops of music from old tapes to digital formats, Basinski noticed that the old magnetic tape strips were slowly coming apart and the recordings were actually “disintegrating” into silence. So, what Basinski says during the Radiolab podcast, as poetic as it may sound, is completely true. He’s capturing music taking its last breaths. It’s hard not to think about life and death when you listen to “The Disintegration Loops.”(Read Pitchfork’s review for a great longread.)
The thing that truly makes “The Disintegration Loops” so poignant is that just after Basinski completed the project the 9/11 attacks happened. Basinski and his friends gathered on his Brooklyn rooftop to listen to the music during the last hour of daylight of September 11. The images and the solemn horn loops create a truly powerful piece of art. Both somehow tragic and beautiful. Smoke slowly billows out of the rubble and fades into the sky as the music collapses into silence.
Ambient music, and especially “The Disintegration Loops,” is able to completely take us out of moment and allow us to reflect and exist in a different kind of space, somehow both outside of time and very much involved with it. It’s the perfect music for a quiet Sunday morning. Take an hour and let this music wash over you. And when the music slowly fades into silence, pay attention and appreciate all other little sounds that surround you that you might not usually hear.