TRACK LIFE: William Basinski – “The Disintegration Loops”
Welcome to Track Life, a daily column in which Jacob Knight shares what he thinks to be the best in music, both new and old.
I couldn’t bring myself to publish anything yesterday, as it felt unbelievably disingenuous to say, “hey, listen to this song!” after such a horrible tragedy had befallen our country. Yet again, we have come face to face with an act of terrorism; one that I can’t help but feel was aimed at those who have already been hurt enough (the final mile of the Boston Marathon was dedicated to the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary). But in the wake of a mad man’s bomb, human beings have yet again risen to show just how great we can be in times of absolute pain and fear. Watching First Responders rush the scene, give blood and help all those who have been devastated by this cowardly act is a reminder that there is still beauty, even in the ugliest of circumstances.
I can’t help but be reminded of William Basinski’s inital set of “Disintegration Loops” whenever tragedy like this rears its ugly head. For those unfamiliar with the significance of this monumental piece of ambient music, I present to you the story from Basinski himself, taken from the “Post Script” of Temporary Residence’s freshly minted vinyl box:
On September 11th I was on my roof in Brooklyn, less than 1 nautical mile from the World Trade Center, our beacon, our compass: that which towered so far above every other skyscraper in NYC, my nightlight. My neighbors and I witnessed the end of the world as we knew it that day. We saw those towering structures collapse before our very eyes, on a crystal clear day we saw the incomprehensible change of landscape: like a volcano disappearing behind trees, we saw this magnificent minimalist human structure disappear. We were appalled. Despite the catastrophic fires, we had no idea that these gigantic structures would collapse…cascade below the lower Manhattan skyline. But it happened. We were in shock. We sat on the roof terrace in lawn chairs and watched the fires burning all day into night with The Disintegration Loops playing in the background. The human scale of the catastrophe we couldn’t even comprehend at the time. That would come next, in tears and agony. This was the ‘end of the world’ we knew was coming sooner or later, but had forgotten about…put in the back of our minds. In the next days and weeks, I watched as my friends and I disintegrated in our own personal loops of fear and terror…each one happening in its own terms, in its own language, at its own pace. A nightmare cascading out of control. A wake-up call no one wanted to answer. People’s hearts had been shattered and what cascaded down immediately was the selfishness, the arrogance, the ugliness. What remained was the heartfelt compassion, kindness, and love for each other which makes us human.
An end of an era…a new beginning.
Boston. Grace be with you.