Sweet New Arrivals – The Disintegration Loops



I can’t believe I’m writing this.  The AU Music Library now has The Disintegration Loops.  So weird to write that.

It’s true: the AU Music Library now has a CD set of the complete Disintegration Loops, by Mr. William Basinski.  I am beyond pleased that we get to share this incredible music with the AU community.

Most people haven’t heard of this piece – really a collection of pieces – and many won’t have too much of a reference point for something like this.  But I’m not worried, as this is, despite a good story about its creation, some of the most direct music I’ve ever heard, pretending to be nothing that it is not.  The sounds do not need explanation.  The few times I’ve put it on here in the library, almost everyone asks what’s playing.




The story.  In the early 80s, Mr. Basinski, interested in ambient sounds and ambient music and Brian Eno and somber tones, made some tape loops.  He recorded simple melodic phrases from pretty inexpensive synthesizers onto short bits of magnetic tape.  This was, of course, when all recording was done on tape, and Mr. Basinski was experimenting.  Nothing much came of these melodies, and a young Basinski put the tapes in Tupperware boxes and stored them away.

In the summer of 2001, an older Basinski found the tapes, and started playing them on his old tape machines, listening to the sounds of his younger self.  He had the idea to preserve the sounds on these loops digitally, so he hooked up the tape machine to his computer and pressed play.  As he was recording them, to his horror, the metals on the tape had oxidized over the years, and hunks of the metal tape began to fall off of the plastic, leaving holes and fractures in the melodies.  Whole pieces were reduced to metal filings left on the machine, completely disintegrating with the repetitious playback.  All he had left were the digital recordings of these disintegrated tape loops and small piles of metal dust.





Basinski was continuing this process in late August and early September, and on September the 11th.  Standing on the roof of his place in Brooklyn on that Tuesday morning, he stared at the skyline in a daze, in utter shock, just the same as the entire nation.  The loops played on out loud and he could hear them from the roof.  Basinski dedicated this piece to the victims of that tragedy, and the two have been linked ever since.

I think what makes this music so special for me is how evocative it is, how utterly somber, sweeping, pastoral it is in its themes, and how this music can’t really be said to go anywhere.  It just decays, entropies out into fields of oblivion.  Simple and grand, this music seems to foretell the decline of our nation and our civilization: the decay of values, economies, the natural world, and politics, quietly and stoically.  The loops lovingly obliterate all sense of time, leaving the listener suspended in majestic a-temporality.





You really just have to put these CDs on and see how they color your breathing, you mind, your walls, and our American sunsets.

The highest recommendation.


p.s. – This interview is a great place to start if you want to read more.  I met Mr. Basinski after a show of his in 2006 and he was a very kind soul.



Sweet New Arrival: Become Ocean

Happy October! If you’re not buried in a punk documentary and are more the modern enviro-classical type, you’ll love our sweet new arrival!

John Luther Adams' new album, Become Ocean, comes out Sept. 30.

NPR recently did a “First Listen” feature on John Luther Adams, an Alaskan experimental composer whose previous works include a piece for 9 to 99 percussionists and a piece where the audience walks through the performing musicians. However, the focus of this feature was Adams’ new piece, a Pulitzer-winning work for three mini-orchestras called Become Ocean.

Become Ocean, like its forebear La Mer (Debussy), is meant to evoke, well, the ocean. The NPR review describes it as “sweeping… briny surges of sound”. The journalist also waxes philosophical on the implications of an ocean-themed piece in a time where the ocean is in flux due to global climate change. Whether or not this is but an intellectualizing of the art or not, the piece is a beautiful one.

And now you can play it, thanks to your friendly neighborhood Music Library! We just received the score this week. While you may not yourself be three mini-orchestras, you can still familiarize yourself with it, learn every part, show it to your conductor, whatnot. Here it is, get lost in the sea.

Cool DC Event(s): Souleyman and Signh


A pleasant Tuesday morning to you; and we’re going to cut straight to the chase…

Not one but TWO rad DC events to tell you about today.

Omar Souleyman promo shot

First us is Omar Souleyman.  Souleyman is a wedding singer from Syria, and he made tons and tons of tapes of his music, pretty much to promote himself.  Anti-world world label Sumblime Frequencies brought his sound to American and European audiences maybe 6 or 7 years ago now, and he’s since toured a whole bunch, and made music with Bjork and Four Tet, among others.  Not sure how much of this kinda thing you have in your life right now, but we’re pretty sure you need more of it:

Souleyman is TONIGHT at the Howard Theatre.

Second, there’ll be a truly rare opportunity coming this Thursday.


You have not heard of Charanjit Signh, most likely.  Signh was in the Bollywood film industry in the 70’s and 80’s, making music for movies.  As such, he had access to some pretty state-of-the-art audio gear for the time, including some now-classic analog synths: the 303 and the 808 and others.  A longtime fan of classical Indian music (and, folks, you need to get into classical Indian music – it’s pretty amazing stuff), Singh thought to try to promote or popularize or ‘update’ these older forms for the new, hip kids the films were being marketed to.  And what was hip in India in the early 80’s?  DISCO.

Thus, 10 Ragas to a Disco Beat, which was released in ’82.  And as a record, it failed.

Flash forward to a few years ago, this record gets “discovered” by dance music nuts.  It turns out Singh’s work sounds a heck of a lot like acid house, which didn’t arrive on the scene in Chicago until 1987.


Singh will be at Tropicalia on U street on Thursday, so you have two days to prepare yourselves for this.  It will be quite the show, folks.

[Full disclosure: my friend’s techno unit Protect-U is opening for Signh]

Keep on dancin’, Team.

Sweet New Arrivals: KZ Musik

Welcome back from your spring break, Music Library readers! Whether it was spent in warm, beachy climes or, like mine, even further north than usual with the usual assortment of cold, wind, rain and snow, I’m sure it was well spent catching up on your me-time.

But being back at school isn’t all bad, right? For one thing you’ve got us to visit! For another, we have a great new arrival! This one’s a big deal- a 12-volume CD set from the Naxos classical record label. And it contains some rather interesting/intense music. It’s called KZ Musik and it is a compilation of music written by inmates in Nazi concentration camps during WWII.

KZ Musik is intended to collect performances of every single piece of music composed in this horrific setting. It’s a lot of music, including compositions in nearly every classical form you can imagine: symphonies, lieder, piano sonatas, fugues, dances, arias, duos, trios, quartets etc. They also span a large variety of instruments, from pieces for full orchestras to smaller chamber groups, pieces for pianos, organs, guitars, vocal works, and more.

This will probably be the most comprehensive collection of music composed in concentration camps to ever be released. It is meant to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks- while certain Holocaust pieces such as Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” have been canonized, a litany of works have been ignored, until now. The music, naturally, is both depressing and inspiring- a portrayal of the human spirit and its creativity even in the darkest of surroundings. Come check it out!

Here’s the link to the first CD of 12. If you’re really interested, click the link for “Varying Forms of Title” (shown below) for the rest of the items.

Click this


AU Musical Events: Robert’s Senior Recital

Usually we don’t advertise senior recitals here, but this one is being performed by music library regular, enthusiast and alum Robert Sheehan!

Titled “Explorations of a Modern Countertenor,” Robert’s recital will explore pieces by Vivaldi, Bach, Schubert, Ives, and more! That variety alone is exciting.

Bucolic and studly

Robert will also be performing music by a fellow AU student, junior Evan Oliver (a great guy and talented musician). Overall this promises to be a varied and engaging recital.

It’s going down on Sunday (March 2nd) at 2 pm in Katzen. Like all senior recitals, admission is free! Nurse those Sunday blues and come support a Music Library family member!

The event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/482670498522712/

AU Musical Events: AU Symphony Orchestra

How’s it going, readers? Feeling inspired by our super-awesome pop-up music library? Looking for an awesome AU musical event to feed your need! Well you’re in luck! Our AU Symphony Orchestra will be performing twice this weekend, once on Saturday night and once on Sunday afternoon.

Conducted by DPA professor Yaniv Dinur, the orchestra will be playing three pieces, each one promising to be exciting in its own right. The first is Rautavaara’s Cantus Arcticus, a concerto combining traditional classical orchestration with field recordings of birdsong from northern Finland and the Arctic Circle. Following this will come Lutoslawski’s Preludes and Fugue, which the event page calls “rough and capricious”- oh, baby.

And last but certainly not least, the orchestra will perform Beethoven’s mighty 5th Symphony. DUN DUN DUN DUNNNN. But seriously, other than the classic 4-note motif, this symphony contains about as much agony and ecstasy of musical perfection as any other piece of classical music (or any genre). Sure to be a breathtaking set-closer.

There will be two performances in the Abramson Recital Hall, one on Saturday at 8 PM and one on Sunday at 3 PM. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for AU community members and seniors. RSVPs are required, so don’t forget! It’s going to be an awesome experience!

Paul Jacobs: Music of Paris Organ Concert

The Kennedy Center was exceptionally full for a Wednesday evening. With so many options it was hard choosing which event to attend. I eventually settled on an organ concert being performed by current Juilliard Organ Professor Paul Jacobs on the little over a year old Casavant Frères organ.

Kennedy Center Organ

This Rubenstein family organ is new to the Kennedy Center and was an exquisite gift from the Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. Boasting about 5,000 pipes, ranging from five-eighths of an inch to thirty-two feet long, this instrument holds its own when it comes to performing on its own or with a full orchestra. Paul Jacobs, however, showcased the organ by itself, allowing the audience to hear exactly what this organ is capable of.

As a Grammy Award Winning organist, Mr. Jacobs has not only made a name for himself within the organ Paul Jacobscommunity, but in music as well. At the age of fifteen he was appointed head organist of a parish of 3,500, and eventually went on to Curtis Institute of Music to double-major in organ and harpsichord, and then to Yale University. He made musical history by performing and eighteen hour marathon of the entire works of J.S. Bach on the 250th anniversary of the composers death.

Based on the theme of “Music from Paris,” Mr. Jacobs opened with Vierne’s “Finale from Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 14” that immediately grabbed the attention of the audience with its magnificent runs and dramatic flourishes. Continuing through the program, the audience was taken on a journey through a lesser known composer Nadia Boulanger, and gently extracted the sweet melodies from “Prelude in F minor.” From there, we continued with Duruflé’s “Suite, Op.5.” This piece begins with a somber tone in the first movement, but finally progresses to a virtuosic Toccata that is spirited and lively. After warming up his audience, Mr. Jacobs chose to bring in some selections from “Livre du Saint Sacrement” by Messiaen. These three short selections showcased exactly how versatile the instrument can be. He finished up with “Sonata No.1 in D minor, Op. 42” by Guilmant. The piece gradually builds into a grand statement of the theme, showcasing the organs range and diversity. After receiving a standing ovation, Mr. Jacobs took of his suit jacket, and proceeded to please the crowd with his own rousing transposition of a Saint-Saëns march. This encouraged a second standing ovation as well as cheers from the audience for a phenomenal performance.

To go and experience this magnificent instrument, the following is a list of upcoming concerts in celebration of this new-found treasure.

*Upcoming Events for the Rubenstein Family Organ*

February 19, 2014: Millennium Stage Performance – Conservatory Project Organ Showcase
April 9, 2014: Millennium Stage Performance
May 21, 2014: Iveta Apkalna Organ Recital – Music of Bach, Escaich, Liszt, Kalējs, and Thalben-Ball
June 5, 2014: Organ Postlude following NSO Concert