Cheap DJ

The Dark Music of 9/11

September 11, 2015

The gradual but inevitable dissolution of William Basinski's Disintegration Loop 1.1 -- a brief, ancient tape loop is literally falling to pieces with each repeated play -- is heartbreakingly beautiful.

And the hour-long single-shot accompanying video of the smoke that just continued to billow up so many hours after the WTC collapses captures, for me, the dark undercurrent of what September 11, 2001 felt like.

The song and the event are very closely intertwined.

Basinski's "Disintegration Loops" just preceded 9/11. In fact he finished recording them the morning of. Basinski had a set of his old recordings on tape that he wanted to transfer to digital. The tapes being so old fell apart as they played. So Basinski cut out fragments, made them into small loops, and recorded them as they fell apart playing over and over again. It turned out to be achingly elegiac-- literally the sound of music physically disintegrating, leaving only defiant echoes in the space it occupied.

That evening, the evening of 9/11, Basinski set up a video camera on his roof, in Williamsburg, to record the seemingly undiminishing stream of smoke rising from behind the silhouette of a church across the river. The effect is like an oil painting, though one with rippling smoke and fading light.

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