R.I.P. Glenn Branca

Music News
05/14/2018
KEXP
Image courtesy of glennbranca.com

Influential guitarist and avant garde composer Glenn Branca died today in his sleep after a battle with throat cancer. He was 69. His wife and longtime collaborator Reg Bloor broke the news in Facebook post on Monday afternoon. In accordance with his wishes, there will be no formal memorial service held.

“His musical output was a fraction of the ideas he had in a given day,” Bloor said in her post. “His influence on the music world is incalculable.”

 

Bloor’s assessment of Branca’s work and legacy perhaps puts it best – “incalculable.” Branca was born in Harrisburg, Pa. in 1948. It was there that he first began playing guitar and experimenting with creating sound collages on tapes. Branca started school at nearby York College before transferring to Boston’s Emerson College where he studied theatre. Theatre would play a central role in his career as he’d begin to pursue experimental theatre, eventually leading him to New York City in 1976 where he’d rekindle his desire for music and formed the no-wave act Theoretical Girls. It was also in New York that he’d form his own record label, Neutral Records, and began signing acts like Sonic Youth and Swans.

In 1980, Branca emerged as a solo artist and released his first EP, Lesson No. 1, which prominently featured guitars loops and veered between no wave, drone, and noise rock aesthetics. He’d also begin composing music for what he dubbed “guitar orchestras” – avant garde symphonies constructed for an ensemble of electric guitars – beginning with his debut album The Ascension. He’d continue to compose masterful works like this throughout his life, with his most recent work Symphony No. 13 (Hallucination City) For 100 Guitars coming out in 2016.

Branca leaves behind an astounding legacy. He continually trudged new ground in his lifetime that continues to be built upon by noise rock and drone artists today and inspiring burgeoning composers across the globe. Join us in remembering his astounding life and revisiting some of his compositions below.

 
 
 

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