William Basinski (born 1958) is an avant-garde composer based in New York. He is also a clarinetist, saxophonist, sound artist, and video artist.
Basinski is best known for his four-volume album The Disintegration Loops (2002–2003), constructed from rapidly decaying twenty-year-old tapes of his earlier music.
William Basinski was born in 1958 in Houston, Texas. A classically trained clarinetist, he studied jazz saxophone and composition at North Texas State University in the late 1970s. In 1978, inspired by minimalists such as Steve Reich and Brian Eno, he began developing his own vocabulary using tape loops and old reel-to-reel tape decks. He developed his meditative, melancholy style experimenting with short looped melodies played against themselves creating feedback loops.
His first release was Shortwavemusic. Although created in 1983, it was first released on vinyl in a small edition in 1998 by Carsten Nicolai‘s Raster-Noton label. This was followed by Watermusic, self-released in 2000 on Basinski’s 2062 Records. Another 2-disc work was Variations: A Movement in Chrome Primitive, 1980: it was finally released in 2004 by David Tibet on the Durtro/Die Stadt label. At the time this work was created, Basinski was experimenting with compositions for piano and tape loops.
Throughout the 1980s, Basinski created a vast archive of experimental works using tape loop and delay systems, found sounds, and shortwave radio static. He was a member of many bands including Gretchen Langheld Ensemble and House Afire. In 1989, he opened his own performance space, “Arcadia” at 118 N. 11th Street. In the 1990s, he performed and produced records and intimate underground shows there for various NYC artists including Antony, Diamanda Galás, Rasputina, The Murmurs, and his own ad-hoc experimental electronic/improvisation band, Life on Mars. In 2000, he made a film titled Fountain with artists James Elaine and Roger Justice.
In August and September 2001, he set to work on what would become his most recognizable piece, the four-volume album The Disintegration Loops. The recordings were based on old tape loops which had degraded in quality. While attempting to salvage the recordings in a digital format, the tapes slowly crumbled and left a timestamp history of their demise.