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Glenn Branca

American avant-garde composer, guitartist and inventor of new instruments, Glenn Branca, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on 6 October 1948, and began to play the guitar when he was fifteen. He also created sound art collages on tape. He studied at York College (1966-7) and then took a theatre course at Emerson College, Boston, in the early 1970s.

Branca experimented with sound, creating his own theatre group which produced productions which were unconventional and sometimes confrontational. With John Rehberger, he wrote all the music for these productions, and it was performed live by the actor/musicians.

Following a move to New York in 1976, he continued in experimental theatre with some new collaborators, and launched his own record label in 1982, releasing recordings by colleagues, and his own first album, Lesson No 1.

He began to write music for electric guitar ensembles, and symphonies for orchestras of electric guitars and percussion, which made use of microtonality and advanced mathematics. Later he began to write for the harmonic series, influenced by Hermann von Helmholtz and Harry Partch, and later still developed his own electrically amplified instruments, including harmonic guitars, mallet guitars and electric cymbaloms.

From the early 1980s, Branca's music began to receive academic attention, particularly from Kyle Gann, labelling Branca as a totalist post-minimalist.

Branca continued to write for electric guitars, and two of his symphonies - No 13, Hallucination City, and No 16, Orgasm - were written for 100 electric guitars, but he also began using the traditional western orchestra in his compositions, such as for Symphony No 14, The Harmonic Series.

Glenn Branca died from throat cancer in Manhattan on 13 May 2018, aged sixty-nine, having inspired many other artists to work with similar extended techniques.

A selection of M&V articles about Glenn Branca

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