Listening to William Basinski’s “Cascade”

June 12, 2014 | Marina Galperina

William Basinski played his recent work Cascade at ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn last night. The sold out performance of the evening-long work was accompanied by visuals — a field of bright blue blurs, dulling, darkening, slowly bursting in small flares. The single looped element of the work shared that glow — a softened, distorted piano, a single phrase that rose like a question, then, as the lower notes fell, receded like wave into the echoes of itself, over and over.

When ANIMAL spoke to the avant-garde composer at the end of 2013, Robert Wilson’s The Life and Death of Marina Abramović was set to premiere in New York. The opera featured songs written by Antony Hegarty, with music by Basinski, including his famous Disintegration Loops. They were recordings of old tapes as they disintegrated, a portrait of disintegration itself, more evident and brittle with every loop, breaking more. But while those pieces felt, at times, like labored breaths, ringing with actual analog death, Cascade was almost joyful. Each loop seemed to discourage itself before beginning over, but it flowed back up, coasting, floating in the hued sunlight.

As in all such durational works, time was suspended. There were no flourishes of accidental melodies or builds or breakdowns, only the sensation that this pattern was expanding and folding in on itself. All that was interrupted at the end when Basinski turned on the speakers with a longer, more complex, older sounding loop. We weren’t listening to that song, we were listening to its ruptures. Just like you never really see water, only the edges of its cascade.

(Photo: Marina Galperina/ANIMALNewYork)