William Basinski

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William Basinski
William Basinski (cropped).jpg
Basinski performing live at the Empty Bottle in 2005
Background information
Born (1958-06-25) June 25, 1958 (age 64)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
  • Composer
  • musician
Years active1978–present

William James Basinski[1] (born June 25, 1958) is an American avant-garde composer based in Los Angeles, California.[2] He is also a clarinetist, saxophonist, sound artist, and video artist.[3]

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.[4]


Early life[edit]

William James Basinski was born in 1958 in Houston, Texas.[3][5] He was raised in a Catholic family,[6] and states that he had his first "really mystical, wonderful, magical" musical experiences as an infant at Houston's St. Anne Church.[7] His father was a scientist contracted to NASA, which caused the family to move often.[7] Basinski says he knew that he was gay from an early age.[8]

A classically trained clarinetist, Basinski studied jazz saxophone and composition at the University of North Texas in the late 1970s. In 1978, inspired by minimalists such as Steve Reich and Brian Eno,[9] 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.[3]


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 sub-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.[3]

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.[10] On one occasion, he opened for David Bowie, playing saxophone with rockabilly band The Rockats.[8] Basinski would later dedicate a track from A Shadow in Time to Bowie.

In August and September 2001, he set to work on what would become his most recognizable piece, the four-volume album The Disintegration Loops.[3] 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.[11][12][13][14]


Studio albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Disintegration Loops (2012, Temporary Residence Limited)

Film scores[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A RING OF SMOKE". ASCAP. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  2. ^ "William Basinski at Bandcamp". May 17, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e "William Basinski | Biography & History". AllMusic.
  4. ^ Medwin, Marc (October 1, 2012). "William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops". Dusted Magazine.
  5. ^ "William Basinski". IMDb. Retrieved February 27, 2021.
  6. ^ Gotrich, Lars (November 15, 2012). "Divinity From Dust: The Healing Power Of 'The Disintegration Loops'". NPR.
  7. ^ a b Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (April 10, 2019). "'I wanted to be David Bowie': music maverick William Basinski". The Guardian.
  8. ^ a b Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (April 10, 2019). "'I wanted to be David Bowie': music maverick William Basinski". Theguardian.com.
  9. ^ Catalano, Nicola (2004). "William Basinski + Richard Chartier interview". spekk. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
  10. ^ "William Basinski". Flaunt. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  11. ^ Tangari, Joe (April 8, 2004). "The Disintegration Loops I-IV – Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  12. ^ Simmons, Ian. "The Disintegration Loops – Review". nthposition. Archived from the original on April 13, 2009. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  13. ^ Mason, James. "Disintegration Loops 3 – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  14. ^ Levaux, Christophe (2014). "William Basinski, The Disintegration Loops. De l'érosion de l'espace sonore. L'antithèse totaliste". Revue et corrigée (101): 24–27.

External links[edit]