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Editor’s Pick: ‘On Time Out of Time’ by William Basinski

Text by CLOT Magazine

On Time Out of Time (Temporary Residence), the new production by William Basinski, is a set of works that was originally commissioned for the 2017 installations ‘ER=EPR’ and ‘Orbihedron’ by artists Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand (in collaboration with Jean-Marc Chomaz and LIGO) for the exhibition, Limits of Knowing at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin.

The pieces reflect on physics principles involving black holes and wormholes. These works utilise, among other things, exclusive source recordings from the interferometers of LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory), capturing the sounds of the merging of two distant massive black holes 1.3 billion years ago.

Evelina and Dmitry didn’t participate directly in the creation of the record. After Basinski – who is a classically trained musician and composer who has been working in experimental media for over 40 years- finished the sound for the installations (released on CD only, not on vinyl, entitled “4(E+D)4(ER=EPR)” ), Berliner Festspiele invited him to perform at the opening of the phenomenal exhibition Limits of Knowing, where both installations, ER=EPR and Orbihedron, were premiered.

William prepared a 40-minute performance that emerged out of the LIGO detections and the music for their installations but then developed much further. Both share: Naturally, we are overjoyed that William continued to work with this material for another year and produced a full CD as well as an LP.

Evelina and Dmitry also shared with us how the sound information was obtained and extracted. When they commenced ER=EPR, there had only been two detections of colliding black holes (by now, LIGO has detected 11 events, including the merger of a binary neutron star!) After travelling over a billion years at the speed of light, the quadropolar space-time ripples, known as gravitational waves, were reduced to the infinitesimal amplitude ever measured, a ten-thousandth of a proton wide.

These vacuum-bending whispers’ frequencies fall within the lower register of the human hearing spectrum. Hence, no transposition is necessary: once a sufficient amount of quantum noise has been filtered out, the vibration pattern of LIGO’s mirrors is directly analysed as an audible signal. And that, it was indeed quite challenging to use for an entire album (not just the accompaniment of our 2 installations); to unfold from only seconds of raw material. Thankfully, they were also given access to lengthier recordings of quantum noise permeating LIGO’s ultra-high vacuum.

According to the theories of physicists Juan Maldacena and Leonard Susskind, the undivided reliable structure of space-time is due to the ghostly features of entanglement. Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated, interact, or share spatial proximity in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the state of the other(s), even when a large distance separates the particles. Connecting distant black holes or two sides of the same black hole, might wormholes be an example of cosmic-scale quantum entanglement?

With the space-time entanglement continuum in mind, we asked the artists whether the sounds on the album time-space would bring about the same sensations in the audience as they do in the installation time-space: It is nearly impossible to fathom the scope of sensations arising in the mind of a listener, although some do try, and the results could be bombastic.

Given the highly detailed visual stimuli imparted by the installations, we can safely say that the auditory sensations alone could never be quite the same. As soon as we completed Orbihedron and shortly thereafter ER=EPR, it was clear that an aural layer must arise based on the apparitional impact of ancient black hole collisions. It is comparable to having a dream from many lifetimes ago. Such a state of amniotic (as William describes it) hypnosis can be incited by repeated sonic structures, mirroring the continuous loop of entangled vortex pairs in ER=EPR, or the cyclonic meandering of Orbihedron.

The album consists of a long 40 min track and a shorter 9 mins, and artist and musician Richard Chartier designed the artwork for the album using some of the installation images. Both tracks are a droney meditative journey to enhance our senses to the quantum spheres, a way to understand our relationship with the universe and ethereal synth loops to slide into metaphysical abstraction.

ER=EPR will be shown in Bordeaux from March 8 to May 19 and in the Château de Lunéville from June 27 to October 21.

(Media courtesy of the artists)
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