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Glenn Branca

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Birthday: Oct 6, 1948

Birthplace: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

A classical composer who wrote for rock instrumentation, Glenn Branca was a significant influence on the experimental strain of post-punk. As a teenager in Harrisburg PA, Branca was attracted both to rock music and to the avant-garde; he began creating tape collages at around the same time he learned to play lead guitar. After studying at York College in Pennsylvania where he also led a cover band, he wound up in Boston where he founded the Bastard Theater, an experimental group combining actors and musicians. In 1976 he moved to New York where he continued in experimental theater while also frequenting CBGB. His short-lived band, Theoretical Girls, was part of New York's "no wave" scene, a loose affiliation of punk-based bands with avant-garde leanings. The band's drummer Wharton Tiers later became a notable producer for Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. and others. Branca released his first solo album Lesson No. 1 in 1980 and his first symphony, subtitled Tonal Plexus, three years later. Both evinced the Branca trademarks of drones, steady rhythmic pulses, unique guitar tunings, and experiments with the harmonic series (ie, the sonic vibrations that alternately impact the brain as music and noise). Thus a Branca piece could include moments of tranquil beauty along with overwhelming washes of sound. One admirer, David Bowie, noted that "what at first sounds like dissonance is soon assimilated as a play on the possibilities of overtones from massed guitars...Amplified and reproduced by many guitars simultaneously, you have an effect akin to the drone of Tibetan Buddhist monks but much, much, much louder." Branca's  collaborators included fellow guitar composer Rhys Chatham, future Helmet frontman Page Hamilton and Sonic Youth cofounders Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo. Branca also released the first Sonic Youth and Swans albums on his own Neutral label.Though multiple electric guitars would remain his trademark, Branca began using traditional orchestration (to nontraditional effect ) in his seventh symphony, and also began inventing instruments-- including "mallet guitars" which were struck, not strummed-- for their harmonic possibilities.  Both his 13th ("Hallucination City")and 16th ("Orgasm") symphonies were scored for 100 electric guitars; the former was performed at the World Trade Center just a few months before 9/11.  In 2010 Branca wrote a "sequel" to The Ascension, the piece that had intrigued Bowie; Ascension Three followed in 2014. The latter was performed at a memorial concert for Bowie that Branca staged in New York in October 2016. Also performed that night was The Light (For David), one of Branca's last works. In October 2017 Branca's new piece "The Blood" was performed by the Quiet City Ensemble in Brooklyn. On May 14 2018, his wife, the guitarist Reg Bloor, announced on Facebook that he had died of throat cancer the previous night.

Filmography

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Credit
No Score Yet No Score Yet Hail the New Puritan Original Music - 1987