Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 – 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018

Feature - 21 May 2018

Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018

To experience the music of the composer, who passed away last week at the age of 69, was to hear something tense, physical, almost pugilistic

By Dan Fox

When John Cage was asked about Glenn Branca’s music in 1982 he remarked: ‘If it was good intentions he was demonstrating, with vehemence and power, it would be one of these strange religious organizations we hear about. Or if it was something political it would resemble fascism. In neither case would I be want to be part of it.’ Branca, who passed away last week at the age of 69, would later include the full 18-minute recording of Cage’s broadside against him on his 2007 album Indeterminant Activity of Resultant Masses; so I suspect, although I don’t know, that he might have been quietly pleased by the disapproval of this modernist titan. Not for any political reasons, but because Branca emerged from a time when – save for one or two older figures you might admit to your pantheon because nobody else would have them – it was your artistic duty to reject all that your forebears wrote, painted, choreographed and composed. Now we line up to honour them at benefit galas and congratulate ourselves for ‘rediscovering’ them, as if they were old letters forgotten in the attic rather than human beings busy living and making. In an interview with Vice magazine in 2016, Branca complained ‘I don’t like being called a legend. This whole idea of me being some kind of leftover from the past is extremely irritating to me, because that is not what I am. I’m very much here, and I’m very much working.’ Yet the composer was ever the contrarian. Talking to The New York Times in 2016, he said: ‘I don’t change. This is something critics always talk about, but has no relation to the way I work. I don’t move on. I do new things, but I don’t leave the old ones behind. I’m simply adding to my repertoire of ideas.’

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Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018

Theoretical Girls, Theoretical Girls, compendium album released in 2002. Courtesy: Acute Records

Which makes an ironic kind of sense, given one of his early music projects was called The Static. With another band Theoretical Girls, formed with musician Jeffery Lohn in the downtown New York of 1977, he aimed to ‘change the concept of rock.’ Theoretical Girls could never achieve their ambition singlehandedly, but they and other bands loosely grouped under the No Wave banner – including DNA, James Chance & The Contortions, Mars and Teenage Jesus & The Jerks – certainly helped detune rock out of blues-based rock’n’roll and into a rawboned, textured and self-aware key. Along with composers including Elliott Sharp and Rhys Chatham (who arguably had a big influence on Branca), and working with musicians including Barbara Ess, Christine Hahn, Ned Sublette, Lee Ranaldo, David Rosenbloom, Jeffrey Glenn, Thurston Moore, Stephan Wischerth and more, Branca soon began writing works for electric guitars, using minimalist processes and unconventional tuning systems.

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Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018

Glenn Branca performing at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo in the 1980s. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Branca’s first solo recording, the EP Lesson No. 1 for Electric Guitar released in 1980, begins with an alternating four-note sequence and phasing techniques that could be straight out of a Steve Reich piece, but soon picks up momentum, becoming a juggernaut of ringing guitars and piercing harmonic overtones, motor-driven by tom-toms, cymbals and one Harry Spitz on ‘sledgehammer.’ In Lesson No. 1 can be heard the template for bands including Sonic Youth (whose members Moore and Ranaldo played on the original recording) and Swans. With the title of his next release, The Ascension (1981), Branca nodded to Olivier Messiaen and John Coltrane, exploring more deeply the sonic effects of alternative tunings, overtones, feedback, and loudly cranked guitars playing in unison. David Bowie regarded The Ascension highly. In an article for Vanity Fair in 2003, Bowie wrote: ‘What at first sounds like dissonance is soon assimilated as a play on the possibilities of overtones from massed guitars. Not Minimalism, exactly – unlike La Monte Young and his work within the harmonic system, Branca uses the overtones produced by the vibrations of a guitar string. Amplified and reproduced by many guitars simultaneously, you have an effect akin to the drone of Tibetan Buddhist monks but much, much, much louder […] Over the years, Branca got even louder and more complex than this, but here on the title track his manifesto is already complete.’

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Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018

Glenn Branca, conducting a performance in 2012. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Branca’s influences, which stretched from The Kinks to mid-20th century European modern composition, helped develop an approach to music that his minimalist forebears in the US had suggested at, bringing ideas from popular music into contact with modern composition. Writing in The Village Voice in 1994, musicologist Kyle Gann observed: ‘Branca keeps his worlds almost schizophrenically separate. To rock critics he'll talk Aerosmith, the Ramones, the [New York] Dolls, Henry Cow and Orchestra Luna ... With me he uses a different set of references, equally obscure: Kryzsztof Penderecki, Dane Rudhyar, Hans Keyser.’

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Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018

John Myers conducting Glenn Branca's Symphony No.13 (Hallucination City) for 100 Guitars, for Frieze Music, at the Roundhouse, London, 2007

Whether in his symphonies for massed electric guitars, in which volume was an important compositional element, or in works scored for more conventional orchestras, Branca’s music sounded like a thousand knives being sharpened, each overtone like sunlight glinting off a steel blade. In some senses, he was a maximalist making use of minimalist processes and the result was a kind of Grand Guignol minimalism. To experience his music live – as I did in 2007 when I helped organize a concert at the Roundhouse, London, of his Symphony No.13 (Hallucination City) For 100 Guitars, for Frieze Music – was to hear something relentlessly tense, physical, almost pugilistic. Even where his music became more stately, widescreen in perspective – such as with his 1983 Symphony No. 3 (Gloria) or the optimistic and bright-sounding Symphony No. 9 (Free Form) (1993) – there was always a sense of the ominous to Branca’s work, a lugubrious weight.

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Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018

Robert Longo, cover artwork for Glenn Branca’s album The Ascension, 1981

For me, artist Robert Longo’s drawing for the cover of The Ascension perhaps best describes Branca’s music. It depicts two men in suits against a white background. One of them is Branca, lifting another unconscious man off the ground. It’s hard to tell whether Branca is rescuing the other figure, or has just committed some act of violence on him and is trying to work out what to do with the body. When I see this ambivalent image I can’t help but think of Branca in the early 1980s, bludgeoning and dragging the principles of musical minimalism underground into a loud, dark club, making classical and post-punk share a stage, whether they wanted to or not.

Main image: Glenn Branca performing at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, Netherlands on 2nd February 1988. Photograph: Frans Schellekens/Redferns

Dan Fox

Dan Fox is the US Editor at Large of frieze and is based in New York. His book Pretentiousness: Why It Matters is published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK, and Coffee House Press in the US.

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2018年5月21日的作品像一千把刀被削尖:献给1948到2018岁的Glenn Branca,以纪念这位作曲家的音乐,他于去年69岁逝世,他听到了一些紧张的、身体的、几乎是拳击的音乐。当Dan Fox在1982被问到Glenn Branca的音乐时,他说:“如果他是善意的,他是在展示威武和力量,那将是我们听到的这些奇怪的宗教组织之一。”或者,如果它是政治上的,它就会像法西斯主义。“无论如何,我都不想成为其中的一员。”布兰卡上周去世,享年69岁,之后他将在18张专辑《笼子》的《宽边》中对他进行全面记录,这是他在2007张专辑中的不确定性。GHT已经被这个现代主义的泰坦人的不满所悄悄地高兴了。不是因为任何政治原因,而是因为布兰卡从一个时代出现了——除了一个或两个年长的人物,你可能会承认你的万神殿因为没有其他人会拥有它们——这是你的艺术责任,拒绝所有你的祖先写、画、编排和编撰的所有东西。现在我们排队在福利院致敬,祝贺我们“重新发现”他们,好像他们是在阁楼上被遗忘的旧信件,而不是忙于生活和制作的人。在2016的副杂志采访中,布兰卡抱怨说:“我不喜欢被称为传奇人物。我认为这是一种过去遗留下来的东西,这让我非常恼火,因为这不是我的本来面目。我很在座,我工作得很好,但作曲家一直是逆反者。在2016与纽约时报的谈话中,他说:“我不会改变。这是批评家经常谈论的,但与我工作的方式没有关系。我不走了。我做新事物,但我不把旧事物抛在脑后。我只是增加了我的曲目。“理论女孩女孩专辑封面。JPG Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018理论女孩,理论女孩,简谱专辑在2002发布。礼貌:在他早期的音乐项目中,一种具有讽刺意味的意识被称为静态。另一个乐队的理论女孩,在1977的纽约市中心与音乐家Jeffery Lohn一起形成,他旨在“改变摇滚的概念”。理论女孩永远无法独自实现他们的野心,但是他们和其他乐队松散地聚集在无波旗帜之下。DNA,杰姆斯机会和扭曲,Mars和Teenage Jesus和杰克-肯定帮助消除摇滚摇滚布鲁斯摇滚,并进入一个带锯齿,纹理和自我意识的关键。随着作曲家,包括Elliott Sharp和Rhys Chatham(谁可能对Brac有很大的影响),并与音乐家,包括Barbara Ess,Christine Hahn,Ned Sublette,Lee Ranaldo,David Rosenbloom,David Rosenbloom,Y,和更多,布兰卡很快开始WRI。Tin为电吉他工作,使用极简工艺和非常规调谐系统。GLNEN BRANCA Wikimdia.JPG Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018格伦Brac在1980年布法罗Hal墙墙当代艺术中心演出。礼貌:WikimidiaCon Brac的第一次独奏录音,EP第1课电吉他1980发布,初学者NS的交替四音符序列和相位技术,可以直接从史提夫·莱许作品,但很快拿起势头,成为一个响亮的响铃吉他和刺耳的谐波泛音,电机驱动的tom toms,钹和一个哈里斯皮茨的“大锤”。埃森1号可以听到乐队的模板,包括Sonic Youth(其成员穆尔和Ranaldo播放的原始记录)和天鹅。随着他的下一个版本的标题,升天(1981),布兰卡点头给梅西安和约翰·克特兰,更深入地探索替代音调、音调、反馈和响亮的吉他演奏的音效。大卫·鲍伊高度重视扬升。在2003的《名利场》的一篇文章中,Bowie写道:“最初听起来像不和谐的东西很快就被同化成一个关于集结吉他的泛音可能性的戏剧。不是极简主义,确切地说,不像La Monte Young和他在谐波系统中的作品,布兰卡使用吉他弦的振动所产生的泛音。同时被许多吉他放大和复制,你的效果类似于藏传佛教僧侣的嗡嗡声,但很多,更大声的[…]这些年来,布兰卡甚至比这更响亮,更复杂,但在标题轨道上,他的宣言已经完成。NeNBRANCA-2012-Wikimdia2.JPG WPA60260602IMG Glenn Branca,在2012进行性能。礼貌:维基媒体公爵布兰卡的影响,从扭结延伸到20世纪中期的欧洲现代作品,帮助发展了一种音乐方法,他在美国的极简主义先驱曾提出,将流行音乐的思想与模式联系起来。Rn组成。音乐学家Kyle Gann在1994的乡村声音中写道:“布兰卡让他的世界几乎精神分裂。”摇滚评论家,他将谈论Assimiths,RAMONS,[纽约]娃娃,Henry Cow和管弦乐队Luna…与我一起,他使用了一组不同的参考文献,同样晦涩难懂:Kryzsztof Penderecki、Dane Rudhyar、Hans Keyser。“img2227 2FRIEZ-MISIC-200”JPG Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018 John Myers指挥Glenn Branca的第13交响曲(幻影城)100支吉他,FRieZe音乐,在伦敦,2007,无论是在他的交响乐集中电吉他,其中卷是一个重要的组成元素,或在作品得分更传统的管弦乐队,布兰卡的音乐听起来像一千刀削尖,每个OV像阳光般闪耀的钢铁叶片。在某种意义上,他是一个极简主义者,利用极简主义的过程,结果是一种伟大的GuigNoL极简主义。体验他的音乐生活——就像我在2007帮助组织一个音乐会在伦敦的圆形住宅,他的第13交响曲(幻影城),100个吉他,为FieSe音乐-是听到一些无情的紧张,身体,几乎拳击。即使他的音乐变得更加庄严,宽阔的视角——比如他的1983交响曲第3号(格罗瑞娅),或者乐观而明亮的交响乐9号(自由形式)(1993)——布兰卡的作品总是有不祥的预感。FulsiSeleNeReNord88900.JPG Like a Thousand Knives Being Sharpened: a Tribute to Glenn Branca 1948–2018 - 像一千把刀被削尖:献给Glenn Branca 1948—2018 Robert Longo,为Glenn Branca专辑《升天》封面艺术品,1981为我,艺术家Robert Longo为提升的封面画,也许最好地描述了布兰卡的音乐。它描绘了两名身穿白色背景服装的男子。其中一个是布兰卡,把另一个失去知觉的人从地上抬了起来。很难说布兰卡是否拯救了另一个人,或者只是对他实施了一些暴力行为,并试图找出如何处理尸体。当我看到这种矛盾的形象时,我不禁想到了20世纪80年代初的布兰卡,他们把音乐极简主义的原则推到了一个喧闹黑暗的俱乐部里,让古典和后朋克分享一个舞台,不管他们愿不愿意。主要形象:Glenn Branca表演在帕拉迪索在阿姆斯特丹,荷兰1988年2月2日。照片:弗兰斯Selelkns/ReffnS丹福克斯丹福克斯是美国编辑弗里泽大,总部设在纽约。他的书假装:为什么它是由菲茨卡拉尔多版本在英国出版,咖啡馆出版社在美国。简介格伦Brac音乐FieZes音乐Dan Fox


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