Parking spaces blazed that autumn in New York City. As the smoke quietly jirbled into the evening, William Basinski, sitting on the roof of his pad in Brooklyn, pointed a camera at lower Manhattan and captured the first half of an enduring conceit.
The second half had its genesis twenty years prior when Basinski pulled together a series of tape loops containing snatches of music recorded from an easy listening radio station.
Basinski decided to digitise this collection. In the process he noticed that each time the loop was played, the tape, hemorrhaging iron oxide, would crumble some more, and that what he was recording was the sound of decay.
On the twelfth of September Basinski stitched together the two halves of the metaphor.
That Basinski appropriated the second part of his conceit for the day New York City collapsed into such vespid chaos is understandable but it also betrays some shortsightedness.
If you listen to the tapes what you can hear – more than the violent explosion of a heinous event that, despite all umbrage at attempts at contextualisation, can, after all, be – is the sound of our glorious, insignificant lives with its concomitant hearing loss, cancers and little victories percolating away.
The loops can be purchased for just over three hundred American dollars. Alternatively, just listen to your heart beat. It disintegrates to the exact same algorithm.
Written on Sunday, 16 June 2013