Features I by I 16.05.16

Glenn Branca’s no wave symphonies are still inspiring new generations

Glenn Branca made a generation of punks rethink what they could do with a guitar.

The composer, guitarist and no wave pioneer who heavily influenced bands like Sonic Youth and Swans will extend his tutelage to another generation of avant-garde musicians, including Justin Frye of PC Worship, Mick Barr of Orthrelm, Octis and Quix*o*tic fame, Greg Fox from Zs and more. A huge ensemble, comprised primarily of guitarists, will perform his 8th and 10th symphonies “The Mysteries” and his 12th, which is called “Tonal Sexus” tonight at Manhattan’s Masonic Hall as part of Red Bull Music Academy’s New York festival.

In anticipation of the show, FACT spoke to Haley Fohr, aka Circuit Des Yeux, who is gearing up to put out a record on Thrill Jockey as Jackie Lynn, Fabi Reyna, Editor-in-Chief of She Shreds, a magazine that highlights women and women-identifying guitarists and Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of the band Liturgy about Branca’s influence on their own work.

Tickets for tonight are still on sale and available here.

Haley Fohr (Jackie Lynn, Circuit Des Yeux): “I’ll never forget being a sophomore in high school and getting my period and a copy of No New York all in the same week. My good friend Katie and I quickly started a punk duo [called] Cro Magnon in which we channeled something between the likes of Harry Pussy and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. [When] Katie’s 20th birthday was coming up, I purchased Glenn Branca’s The Ascension for the special occasion. Back then, I was playing a broken guitar and Katie sat on her bed and played a kick drum with a wooden spoon. That day we lit up a joint, listened to The Ascension, took the direct inspiration, and jammed. It was a beautiful day.

It is surreal for me to be involved in this ensemble almost 10 years later. To say I am excited and nervous would be an understatement. I am especially excited to play Symphony 12. I think the chord progressions are somewhat celestial feeling, and it puts me in a particularly pleasant place.”

Fabi Reyna (Editor-in-Chief, She Shreds Magazine): “To be perfectly honest, my knowledge of Glenn Branca was limited to scanning past his name a handful of times while reading about one of my biggest influences, Sonic Youth. When I was asked to do this I thought: ‘What a great opportunity to enter the brain of someone who musically redefines and bends traditional rules, guitar-wise.’ [He’s] one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with the noise, punk [and] no wave scenes of the ’80s and early ’90s. I was a classical guitar player for four years, so reading and understanding the way that Glenn writes his musical language has been a challenge but incredibly fun and rewarding to deliver that perspective.

One of the coolest things about that, actually, is that because most notes of every piece have their own specific way of playing them, it’s almost better if you don’t understand the traditional rules of reading sheet music — most of us in the show haven’t read music in years, if ever – but we’re passionate players who aren’t afraid of experimenting and taking on challenges… I think that passion and drive will definitely show itself in the performance.”

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix (Liturgy): “Glenn Branca’s music is a major influence on the sound of Liturgy. I encountered his music and black metal at around the same time in high school and knew I wanted to fuse the latter with the ecstatic cacophony of his music and the lineage of minimalism and no wave. It’s an honor to be playing these pieces along with such great musicians.”

Read next: Man In Da Corner: Dizzee Rascal gets back on the grime wave to perform his iconic debut album in full at RBMA NY



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