The word “disintegrate” is fucked up if you think about.
I remember being younger and thinking about it re: the image above, the dorky Magic: The Gathering card. Disintegrate is ‘harsher’ than its counterpart, Fireball, because Disintegrate causes the target to be completely removed from the game rather than simply killed. If a creature takes lethal Disintegrate damage, it’s as if that poor thing never even existed in the first place. Wiped out, McFlyly.
"Disintegrate" also makes me think of integrals, and I’m not even going to lie to you or front: I barely remember what those are. I’m not going to waste your time or mine looking them up on Wikipedia to render any amount of BS. But Integration is the opposite action of derivation, I think, which would make taking the derivative sort of like disintegrating the integral? And derivatives have to do with the rate of change in change, acceleration rather than speed. That’s pretty bad ass. Also, the word derivative had to do with why the world economy collapsed. (I actually understand that one! But it’s not relevant!)
The thing really, though, is that the word “disintegrate” just has an almost perfectly-present meaning that’s totally apparent right away. It is the opposite of integrate. Also, an act that can only follow integration.
Fold your fingers together in a steeple. That’s integration. Cut your fingers off with a butcher knife. That’s disintegration.
Knit a scarf for your mom. Integration. Soak it in gas and light her on fire round the neck with it. Disintegration.
Be a foetus, a new spark of life, nutrients and genetic matter and magic all coming together to create any you, pure possibility and love. Integration. Genocide. Hitler. Mao. Apartheid. Dresden. Etc. Etc. Disintegration.
Mark Richardson’s review of the new Basinksi box set for the Disintegration Loops made for a really nice read. A decade old album that’s probably more talked about than heard (or, more likely, not very widely heard but almost evenly talked about and heard), a staunchly artistic piece of music that has more in common with installation art than anything the word “tape loop” may bring to mind, does not make for a very human subject most times. And this time, really, is no exception. It’s either about 9/11, technological obviation, the lost telos of modernity, really all sorts of things — anythings — except, say, sitting in the park, sunny and 75 / feels so good to be alive — but that’s OK. Disintegration is a fucked up.
In his review, Mark told a sort of anecdote about how as the sound of the piece’s tape loop degrades, there’s more and more quiet in it. And through those lacunas, life seeps in.
I started to become aware of what was around me. I could hear the engines, the rattle of the tracks, and the voices of people in the subway car. The music had me thinking about the biggest questions— why we are here and how we exist and what it all means.
So maybe disintegration can be a life-affirming function?
Maybe, well, no. Only if the disintegration is of the technological veil. I had an almost opposite experience this afternoon, listening to “Dlp 1.1” for the first time in some time. As the tape loop spools out, seems to slow, and staggers forward through time, I kept turning it up. I wanted to hear it all. But as I hit the “Up” volume key on my keyboard to raise the piece’s volume to (what I imaged was) its approximate starting volume, the Apple “blood” sound, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, gets louder and louder, relatively. “Dlp 1.1” quieter, obnoxious Apple bloop louder. And if you have headphones of any decent quality, you know that there’s even a slight noise floor/sound artifact thing associated with the bloop, and also that the sound clips nastily. It’s such an inelegant sound. I hate it. It’s basically always the same, infinitely repeatable. (In contrast, this SpellTower game has some of the most beautiful sound design I’ve ever heard. I could just click and splat little letter tiles around all day to hear the sounds they make.)
Disintegration is above all a sort of analog or human relative idea, I think. Ones and zeroes, on and off: that’s digital. Disintegration is about experiencing the spectrum of being and not-being. Being all-being, then being some-being, then being no-being. Being no-being is basically the core concept of disintegration. As implied by the Magic card, disintegration is the utter destruction of something, but a trace of its existence remains because there must be a something (some creature card) to be replaced in its owner’s deck at the end of the game. So disintegration is the most absolute form of destruction, yet one in which something lingers.
The thing that terrifies me about life is the Apple bloop. What if the beautiful, the elegiac, the absolutely human disintegrates while the smooth, faceless technological sonic sheen of the Apple bloop remains, never degrading, like a piece of ancient plastic in a landfill full of plastic. I could be mistaken, but that might be what the ending of Gravity’s Rainbow was about to some extent. It’s an absurd nightmare where these things we made to indefinitely extend our own oblivious pleasure long outlast us as dumb trash. Everything human disintegrates.