The Glenn Branca Album Poll of the Sacred

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I am mostly familiar with The Ascension, its sequel (which is quite good!) and Lesson No. 1, and have heard that some of his symphonies are utterly fantastic and eclipse The Ascensions both in ambition and performance. Is this true? Help me, ILM, what am I missing out on? Might as well ask with a poll!

Poll Results

The Ascension 7
Symphony No. 6 (Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven) 6
Symphony No. 3 (Gloria) 4
Symphony No. 2 (The Peak of the Sacred) 2
Symphony No. 1 (Tonal Plexus) 1
The Ascension: The Sequel 0
Indeterminate Activity Of Resultant Masses 0
Symphony No. 9 (L'Eve Future) 0
Symphony No. 5 (Describing Planes in an Expanding Hypersphere) 0
Symphonies Nos. 8 & 10 (The Mysteries) 0
The World Upside Down 0
Symphony No. 7 (For Orchestra): Live In Graz 0

octobeard, Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:06 (three years ago) Permalink

i like #6 but haven't listened to absolutely everything

global tetrahedron, Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:09 (three years ago) Permalink

Symphony #2 is maybe my favorite of the "symphonies". Love it.

grandavis, Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:12 (three years ago) Permalink

I'm most familiar with #6. It's great. The "Freeform" orchestral piece on the Symphony #9 CD is also really good.

A New Heart Sutra for the Golden Corpses of America (Skrot Montague), Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:48 (three years ago) Permalink

Hm, it's between 3 and 6.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Friday, 20 March 2015 13:09 (three years ago) Permalink

Onlyy thingf I've listened to recently has been U.S. Millie since it's on the Souljazz Punk 45 set

Stevolende, Friday, 20 March 2015 13:13 (three years ago) Permalink

I may rate #2 really highly because it is the first one I owned a physical copy of and I played the hell out of that thing, but still I really love the progression of that one. A fan of most of it, #3 in particular as well.

grandavis, Friday, 20 March 2015 14:06 (three years ago) Permalink

I mean, I can listen to this shit all day:

grandavis, Friday, 20 March 2015 15:54 (three years ago) Permalink

three weeks pass...

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:01 (three years ago) Permalink

3 for me by a long shot but 6 was always great for adding those motorik drums towards the end and 8+10 were growers

(never quite turned the corner on the more traditional symphonic direction he went with 'upside down' & 9 but still impressive that he tried it out and they're all worth hearing, the only one I don't know is 7)

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:11 (three years ago) Permalink

Haven't heard everything either but where is Hallucination City - believe it's Symphony #13 - on this list? Saw it at LA Phil and it ruled, was like watching two planets slowly colliding.

the most painstaking, humorless people in the world (lukas), Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:30 (three years ago) Permalink

Has never been recorded afaik. I still feel like it may well be his best work.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 14 April 2015 02:14 (three years ago) Permalink

I mean, it has been recorded, but not officially.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 14 April 2015 02:14 (three years ago) Permalink

I only know 3 b/c it's the one Michael Gira, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo play on. You can really hear the Branca influence in Swans Are Dead-era Swans. Voting 3, then.

anthony braxton diamond geezer (anagram), Tuesday, 14 April 2015 07:24 (three years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Wednesday, 15 April 2015 00:01 (three years ago) Permalink

Bring it on...

A New Heart Sutra for the Golden Corpses of America (Skrot Montague), Wednesday, 15 April 2015 03:42 (three years ago) Permalink

Given the results I clearly need to spend some more time with 3 Gloria. Re: Hallucination City - I would love to hear a bootleg of the various aborted official recording sessions. I've seen pictures. Unfortunately those pictures didn't have an audio stream embedded.

A New Heart Sutra for the Golden Corpses of America (Skrot Montague), Wednesday, 15 April 2015 03:48 (three years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Man, part 3 of Tonal Plexus. MAN.

On this timescale, all matter is liquid. (GOTT PUNCH II HAWKWINDZ), Monday, 20 June 2016 09:20 (two years ago) Permalink

Loving the new Hallucination City disc. Could be aoty.

Hi! I'm twice-coloured! (Sund4r), Monday, 20 June 2016 15:54 (two years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

Ah man. Glenn's left us.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 14 May 2018 20:21 (eight months ago) Permalink

oof — RIP. a guy who created a whole new sonic language ...

tylerw, Monday, 14 May 2018 20:26 (eight months ago) Permalink

Damn. Sorry to hear. Rewired my brain and is certainly a big reason why I play the guitar the way I play the guitar.

grandavis, Monday, 14 May 2018 20:32 (eight months ago) Permalink

one of my favorite guitarists ever, someone who explored the instrument in ways that few before or since have

flappy bird, Monday, 14 May 2018 20:39 (eight months ago) Permalink

I tweeted this but we were just at the Walker Art Center in Mpls (which now that I think about hosted an early Branca Ensemble performance) and there is a Robert Longo painting currently hanging very much in the style of "The Ascension" lp cover & I always have a bit of synesthesia when I see it, I hear those huge, distinctive guitars.

Symphony No 6, No 2 & "Songs 77-79" were such massive records that deeply scrambled my brain. Rest in peace.

chr1sb3singer, Monday, 14 May 2018 20:39 (eight months ago) Permalink

"The Ascension: The Sequel" from 2010 is really a great

chr1sb3singer, Monday, 14 May 2018 20:42 (eight months ago) Permalink

this is such a bummer, opened my mind quite a bit. he had a great cranky column in the NYT a few years back, I should try to find

global tetrahedron, Monday, 14 May 2018 20:46 (eight months ago) Permalink


I got the idea for this piece from mathematician David Hilbert’s well-known list of 23 “Paris Problems” (1900) that he hoped to see solved in the new century. Of course there is not the slightest connection between Hilbert’s list of problems and this list of questions. Not to mention the fact that many of these questions contain the answers simply in the asking.

1. Should a modern composer be judged against only the very best works of the past?

2. Can there be truly objective criteria for judging a work of art?

3. If a composer can write one or two or more great works of music why cannot all of his or her works be great?

4. Why does the contemporary musical establishment remain so conservative when all other fields of the arts embrace new ideas?

5. Should a composer, if confronted with a choice, write for the musicians who will play a piece or write for the audience who will hear it?

6. When is an audience big enough to satisfy a composer or a musician? 100? 1000? 10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000? 100,000,000?

7. Is the symphony orchestra still relevant or is it just a museum?

8. Is micro-tonality a viable compositional tool or a burned out modernist concept?

9. In an orchestra of 80 to 100 musicians does the use of improvisation make any sense?

10. What is the dichotomy between dissonance and. tonality and where should the line be drawn?

11. Can the music that sooths the savage beast be savage?

12. Should a composer speak with the voice of his or her own time?

13. If there’s already so much good music to listen to what’s the point of more composers writing more music?

14. If Bach were alive today would he be writing in the baroque style?

15. Must all modern composers reject the past, a la John Cage or Milton Babbitt’s “Who Cares If You Listen?”

16. Is the symphony an antiquated idea or is it, like the novel in literature, still a viable long form of music?

17. Can harmony be non-linear?

18. Was Cage’s “4:33” a good piece of music?

19. Artists are expected to accept criticism, should critics be expected to accept it as well?

20. Sometimes I’m tempted to talk about the role that corporate culture plays in the sale and distribution of illegal drugs throughout the United States and the world, and that the opium crop in Afghanistan has increased by 86 percent since the American occupation, and the fact that there are 126,000 civilian contractors in Iraq, but what does this have to do with music?

21. Can the orchestra be replaced by increasingly sophisticated computer-sampling programs and recording techniques, at least as far as recordings are concerned?

22. When a visual artist can sell a one-of-a-kind work for hundreds of thousands of dollars and anyone on the internet can have a composer’s work for nothing, how is a composer going to survive?
And does it matter?

23. Should composers try to reflect in their music the truth of their natures and the visions of their dreams whether or not this music appeals to a wide audience?

24. Why are advances in science and technology not paralleled by advances in music theory and compositional technique?

25. Post-Post Minimalism? Since Minimalism and Post-Minimalism we’ve seen a short-lived Neo-Romanticism, mainly based on misguided attempts to return to a 19th century tonality, then an improv scene which had little or nothing to do with composition, then a hodge-podge of styles: a little old “new music,” a little “60’s sound colorism”, then an eclectic pomo stew of jazz, rock and classical, then a little retro-chic Renaissance … even tonal 12-tonalism. And now in Germany some “conceptual” re-readings of Wagner. What have I left out? Where’s the music?

global tetrahedron, Monday, 14 May 2018 20:49 (eight months ago) Permalink

Argh fucking hell no, this really sucks.

MaresNest, Monday, 14 May 2018 21:17 (eight months ago) Permalink

Shitty news, seeing Symphony #6 performed at the QEH in London when I was about 20 changed the way I listened to music forever. RIP big guitar dude, hope you're demolishing the gates of heaven with those six-string devil choirs right this minute.

Does anybody remember Rock In Opposition? *audience screams* (Matt #2), Monday, 14 May 2018 21:32 (eight months ago) Permalink

RIP Glenn. A huge inspiration.

in twelve parts (lamonti), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 05:55 (eight months ago) Permalink

Geez. RIP.

albvivertine, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 06:05 (eight months ago) Permalink

RIP. Was listening to The Ascension and Ascension The Sequel this week, their ferocity never ceases to amaze me.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 06:17 (eight months ago) Permalink

was just blasting out The Ascension myself, he was so good :(

calzino, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 08:59 (eight months ago) Permalink

He was surrounded by so many tryhard scenster/loudmouth pseud types on that 80's Sonic Youth/John Zorn doc that his presence was a massive relief, because he seemed so effortlessly nice and unpretentious.

calzino, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 09:01 (eight months ago) Permalink

If this poll was done again there would +1 extra for Devil Choir, it still sounds fucking rad all these years later.

calzino, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 09:32 (eight months ago) Permalink

Great album. Probably useless talking about how much he anticipated some of the weirder aspects of metal but, well, that album

my dreams in the hell-pits (GOTT PUNCH II HAWKWINDZ), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 09:45 (eight months ago) Permalink

saw his ensemble at a multi-storey carpark in peckham about 5 years ago, air was crackling with noise and electricity. a thunderstorm started up outside while he was playing iirc, absolutely torrential rain. glenn had a bit of a meltdown at the end: "erik... asshole... turn off the goddamn feedback, the only thing I can hear now is the fucking snare drum"

i'm surprised to see your screwface at the door (NickB), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 09:55 (eight months ago) Permalink

featuring a rather good and rather unexpected Ian Hunter anecdote!

Thomas NAGL (Neil S), Tuesday, 15 May 2018 10:08 (eight months ago) Permalink

I remember the forcedexposure interview/biography being pretty good. But that was a long time ago.
Enjoyed the QEH performance whenever that was.
Is there a career spanning compilation including the early bands. I'm not as familiar with his work as I maybe should be.
Do like what i've heard though.

Stevolende, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 10:28 (eight months ago) Permalink

was happy to talk to Geeta last night about Branca but need the usual caveat that the Theoretical Girls CD on Acute only features the songs written by Jeffrey Lohn.

That being said, regarding career spanning compilations, the Atavistic release Branca Songs 77-80 includes the Static material and a chunk of what he wrote for the Theoretical Girls.

dan selzer, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 12:49 (eight months ago) Permalink

May look into getting taht then. Did like U.S. Millie a lot.

Stevolende, Tuesday, 15 May 2018 12:56 (eight months ago) Permalink

Glad Geeta was the one writing that for the Guardian.

Echoes on a bunch of stuff I saw while living in China:

etc, Wednesday, 16 May 2018 00:19 (eight months ago) Permalink

He could be ferociously defensive of his musical innovations, and tales of his irascibility were not uncommon. But his stubbornness helped continually move his music forward

Marc Masters in his Rolling Stone obit for Branca

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 16 May 2018 13:13 (eight months ago) Permalink

great piece

flappy bird, Friday, 18 May 2018 16:13 (seven months ago) Permalink

four months pass...

Glad Geeta was the one writing that for the Guardian.

Echoes on a bunch of stuff I saw while living in China:

― etc, Tuesday, May 15, 2018 7:19 PM (four months ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

um two things: (1) i was apparently under a rock when branca died bc holy shit and (2) one of my best friends wrote that article and that makes me happy

21st savagery fox (m bison), Wednesday, 26 September 2018 02:17 (three months ago) Permalink

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