Sitting atop his building on the day that shook the world, William Basinski directed the gaze of his camera toward a billowing pillar of smoke, rising high above the Manhattan skyline. All the while, the world could do nothing but watch and hold their breath, as if they were sat before a feather balancing on a pinhead, held in perfect equilibrium for only the shortest quantity of time required for those present to acknowledge its presence in the first place.
I cannot imagine being present at the site of the world trade centre on the day of the attacks, and I would not be surprised if those there themselves couldn’t string together a sequence of words to describe the utter devastation and horror seen as thousands of innocent lives were lost in a tragic event fuelled by blind hatred and a complete lack of remorse for human life by those responsible for the terror.
While in the company of friends on the roof of his home, a somber loop of almost indecipherable cymbal crashes and trumpets echoed out and reflected the mood of everyone present at Batinski’s home.
In hindsight, it seems nothing less than destiny that The Disintegration Loops were finished on the day of the attacks.
But what are they?
Twenty years prior to the 2001 attacks, Batinski produced many recordings on magnetic tape, mostly of random ambient music.
In the early 2000s, Basinski attempted to salvage the decades-old recordings, but he had waited much too long to do so. As the tapes spun while being digitally recorded, the ferrite crumbled and fell off the plastic backing.
Batinski played fragments of the tape on continuous loops, as the original recording disintegrated.
A harrowing and sombre tune, that slowly loses each element of its musical composition as time passes. The disintegration is slow, each track lasts tens of minutes, but the snippet of sound in question is a mere 3 or 4 seconds long.
To me, the slow degradation of the melody long forgotten is synonymous with the way in which people present in New York on the day of the attacks replay those events again and again in their heads, and only long after first being exposed to the information can it be stripped down, and processed.
As the tracks progress, random elements are lost, and the empty space is filled only with the reverb from that which remains.
Eventually, there is no sense in what is heard. It sounds like a record skipping persistently, but only remaining in the groove of the vinyl for milliseconds at a time.
9/11 was a senseless act. Nothing except horror, devastation and death was achieved. The people behind it were twisted and truly, truly evil, they do not deserve to be remembered by anybody.
This has been very rambly, but these were just my thoughts while I listened to the Disintegration Loops, by William Basinski.
It’s the 17th anniversary of 9/11, and to every soul that perished in the attacks, we remember you, and always will.