Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Genius of Glenn Branca

I'm considering making a series called "The Genius Of" for this blog, but that all seems a bit much currently. I don't know how often I'm going to discover genius-level artists I hadn't previously been enamored with, really, but we'll see. But, of course, I am the final word on genius, right? Right. So I'm torn. Anyway:

Glenn Branca composes symphonies for electric guitars. Sound bizarre, indulgent, even ludicrous or terrible? Possibly. However, it truly only sounds that way, because Branca has produced some of the most interesting takes on the range of the guitar as instrument ever put forth. Indeed, he might be the only man who not only has faith in the electric guitar as something beyond "low" culture, but also has that notion evidenced in a superb discography.

Starting in the late 70's, Branca formed the avant-gardeish groups Theoretical Girls and Static, but he was best known for his tendency to show up in smokey underground New York dens to shred confusingly complex imrovisational pieces. These little creative fits spread word quickly of Branca's singularity in the "scene" of the time, and so his first release, Lesson No. 1 (For Electric Guitar) was met with considerable attention and praise. In that record you can hear the beginnings of Branca's ambitions with his instrument. Eventually, those ambitions translated to Branca composing whole Symphonies of electric guitar in 1981, some of which call for as much as 100 guitars to build huge swirling walls of sound over single bass drum beats. The results are just fantastically engaging for anybody who has enjoyed, especially, post-punk/post-rock, but are certainly also valuable for anyone who has been touched by the versatility of the electric six-string. I've absolutely fallen in love with his work, and so should you.

Highlights include (but are not limited to) Symphony No. 6 (Devil Choirs At the Gates Of Heaven), The Ascension, and Symphony No.'s 8 & 10 (The Mysteries).

Download "First Movement" from Symphony No. 6 (Devil Choirs At the Gates Of Heaven)


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