His work, ‘The Disintegration Loops’, paid serendipitous homage to the demise of physical tape when in 2005 he set about re-recording some analogue tape loops he had produced twenty years earlier. As the melodies were transferred from analogue to digital, he realised that the tape itself was disintegrating. As the iron oxide particles turned to dust, they dropped onto the tape machine, chipping away tiny sonorous sections from the sweeping pastoral soundscapes contained therein. By the end of each piece, the tape’s body had been stripped to a clear plastic skeleton.
Basinski continued to record the sound of this decay to produce six meandering loops of haunting sound. Each loop begins brightly, warmly, before becoming a muddled melody, fading into fragmented distortion, static, or quiet. Some of the loops decline within fifteen minutes, whilst others fade for more than an hour. The loops play like accidental improvisation, irregular sound patterns created by the decline of matter over time.
The story goes that he finished his re-recording in September 2001, at the time that the Twin Towers came down. From his Brooklyn rooftop, he watched the smoke of downtown Manhattan whilst listening to his played back loops, hearing and viewing the ruins of both sound and space.
The demise of the tape loops marks the beginning of a new musical document, while the notes themselves, scattered and divided by the simultaneous processes of physical ageing and technological renewal, produce an ethereal haze in which personal memories might also be effaced. Silence is engraved where symphony once was.
Though his ‘Disintegration Loops’ embody an analogue death, there remains something eternal about the sound of their heaving last breaths.
Autopsies Group Participant, London Consortium 2010-11
Read more on 'The Disintegration Loops' here.