Profile: William Basinski

I had first heard about William Basinski from my brother. I had listened to some pieces but mustn’t have been in the right head space for it because it did not really make much of an impact. At first. Then, in 2010 I saw Antony and The Johnsons at the Sydney Opera House. The support act was William Basinski & Johanna Constantine, his ambient, sonorous creations a fascinating partner to Constantine’s repetitive and hypnotic dance. All of a sudden Basinski made sense.

A classically trained musician, Basinski also studied jazz saxophone at University and has been creating experimental music and media for 25 years. In August and September 2001 Basinski began work on what would become his most recognised piece, The Disintegration Loops. As he began digitising a bunch of 20 yr old tape loops he’d had in storage, he realised this attempt at preservation was actually destroying the tapes. ‘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.Pitchfork Review

As Basinski listened to the digital playback of his lost analogue recordings, he witnessed the devastation of 9/11 through his NYC apartment window, an apt soundtrack to the horrors unfolding. What resulted from this period was a creation of a series of pieces that Basinski would become famous for. The loops of music became, under Basinski’s guidance, an ethereal masterpiece.

‘Haunting and melancholy soundscapes explore the temporal nature of life, resounding with the reverberations of memory and the mystery of time. His epic 4-disc masterwork, The Disintegration Loops, received international critical acclaim’ William Basinski’s Website

William Basinski’s music reminds me of the eerie, hymnal scores of Angelo Badalamenti. It is perfect music for writers, artists and anyone wanting to work under the influence of a certain mood. It’s the sort of music that doesn’t distract. Instead it penetrates subconsciously, allowing you to become fully immersed in the mood Basinski creates and yet allows freedom to think and create. It repeats and vibrates, soothing and at the same time insistent.

His concerts and installations and films made in collaboration with artist-filmmaker, James Elaine have been presented internationally, most recently at The Venice Biennale of Music, Venice, Italy, Happy New Ears Festival, Belgium, FOCUS ONE Festival, Poland, Filosophia Festival, Carpi, Italy, and Cite de la Musique, Paris, among others. Basinski’s latest albums, 92982 and Vivian & Ondine were released in 2009 on 2062/USA and distributed internationally.

His entire catalog is available for digital download through iTunes, Amazon.con, and numerous legitimate digital retailers worldwide and you can listen to excerpts of Basinski’s catalogue on his website.

A short Interview with Basinski can be read at Headphone Commute.

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