Saturday, October 17, 2015

William Basinski

[ed. One could make the argument that William Basinski is more famous for destroying his art than creating it - a form of Process Art. (Felix Gonzales-Torres and his Untitled series using piles of candies is another form of process art). Personally, Disintigration Loops I-IV seems kind of monotonous to me, but art can be that too, right?]

You are slowly being destroyed. It's imperceptible in the scheme of a day or a week or even a year, but you are aging, and your body is degrading. As your cells synthesize the very proteins that allow you to live, they also release free radicals, oxidants that literally perforate your tissue and cause you to grow progressively less able to perform as you did at your peak. By the time you reach 80, you will literally be full of holes, and though you'll never notice a single one of them, you will inevitably feel their collective effect. Aging and degradation are forces of nature, functions of living, and understanding them can be as terrifying as it is gratifying.

It's not the kind of thing you can say often, but I think William Basinski's Disintegration Loops are a step toward that understanding-- the music itself is not so much composed as it is this force of nature, this inevitable decay of all things, from memory to physical matter, made manifest in music. During the summer of 2001, Basinski set about transferring a series of 20-year-old tape loops he'd had in storage to a digital file format, and was startled when this act of preservation began to devour the tapes he was saving. As they played, flakes of magnetic material were scraped away by the reader head, wiping out portions of the music and changing the character and sound of the loops as they progressed, the recording process playing an inadvertent witness to the destruction of Basinski's old music.

by Joe Tangari, Pitchfork |  Read more:
Images: from the Internet Archive ("Stanley Zoobris Home Movies" and " Decomposed Carnival")