On his forthcoming release “On Time Out of Time,” composer William Basinski samples the sound of two black holes colliding, creating more energy than all the stars in the universe and a rift in space-time.
The collision was 1.3 billion years ago, but Basinski’s connection to the stars goes back to his childhood. His father was a mathematician and engineer who worked on the early space program for General Electric. Basinski remembers being at a Houston church as a young boy, when his father whispered to him to touch the man in front of him. When he refused, the elder Basinski took young William’s hand and poked the man in the butt. That man was Neil Armstrong, and, as Basinski jokes, “I planted my flag.”
By his 20s, Basinski would be planting his flag as an avant-garde artist, assembling tape loops, found sounds and other sonic detritus into hypnotic compositions that force listeners to meditate, contemplate, zone out and pay attention, all at the same time. He was a key figure in the music scene of pre-gentrification Brooklyn throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and it was there that he created his most well-regarded work: “The Disintegration Loops,” a study in decay and decomposition that accidentally became an ambient elegy for Sept. 11.
Since then, Basinski has crafted more than a dozen works, including a tribute to David Bowie and contributions to an opera about performance artist Marina Abramovic. Often, as with “The Disintegration Loops,” his source material is years-old, excavated from his personal archives.
The source of “On Time Out of Time” is older still. The 40-minute composition is Basinski’s interpretation of how the collision’s waves unfolded through space-time over eons, eventually reaching Earth.
As he says excitedly: “It’s a romantic love story between two f---ing black holes — the biggest vampires that ever existed.”
Show: Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW. $20-$25.