Who Wants to Fall Asleep to 'The Disintegration Loops'?

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A still from a video made by Basinski of the New York sky on Sept. 11, 2001, after finishing 'The Disintegration Loops.' (William Basinksi)

Years ago, the new age composer Robert Rich regularly set up speakers, invited an audience, and performed soft, lilting music specifically meant for slumber. Known as "sleep concerts," the shows made for an unusual sight: the crowd asleep on the floor in sleeping bags and blankets while Rich performed on stage.

If the whole idea sounds like a 1980s relic to you, know this: the "sleep concert" is making a comeback. Rich resurrected the concept at this year's Noise Pop festival; he also brought it to the 2013 Unsound festival in Poland.

Now, ambient composer William Basinski settles into The Lab in San Francisco for his own version of the sleep concert. On April 20, starting at 10pm and ending at 6am, Basinski performs material from his new album On Time Out of Time for a crowd curled up on the floor in quilts and pillows.

But the real attraction here is The Disintegration Loops, the epic five-hour project Basinski recorded in New York City on the eve of 9/11. An experiment in looping, tape reels, and decay, The Disintegration Loops has an unusually emotional quality; made from slowly degrading magnetic tapes, it's a document of loss not just of sound but of body and spirit. Eventually released in box set form, the cycle is widely regarded as a modern masterpiece.


Despite its acclaim, The Disintegration Loops is very rarely performed. That makes it a special treat when Basinksi plays it — bring your sleeping bags — on April 20, from 10pm-6am, at The Lab (part of the Lab's '24-Hour Telethon'). Details here.