Branca, Glenn (1948--) By Nickleson, Patrick
Glenn Branca (b. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1948) is an American composer noted for his works for massed electric guitars. Branca began his compositional career in New York after working in theatre in Boston. With his first two bands, The Static and Theoretical Girls, he began combining avant-garde art music with the No Wave scene of late 1970s New York. Following these early experiments, Branca started his own ensemble—which over the years included members of the rock bands Sonic Youth, Swans, and Helmet—for his albums Lesson No. 1 and The Ascension. His works are heavily influenced by the esoteric tuning theories of Hermann von Helmholtz, Dane Rudhyar, Hans Kayser, and Harry Partch. From these writers and his own early experiments, Branca developed a compositional style that utilized the clashing of high harmonics at extreme volumes to create an effect that is often described as ecstatic. While his use of the term ‘symphony’ to describe his large-scale works drew criticism earlier in his career, he has become an extremely prolific writer in that genre; his Symphony No. 15: Running Through the World Like an Open Razor (for strange orchestra) premiered at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge in November 2010.