Obituary: Glenn Branca, composer who mixed classical, rock, and avant-garde, 69

Posted on: May 17, 2018

“Glenn Branca, a composer who began his musical life playing with influential Downtown rock bands in New York in the 1970s, but [created] a hybrid style—blending classical, rock and avant-garde elements—that laid the foundation for much of today’s genre-crossing new music, died on Sunday in Manhattan,” writes Allan Kozinn in Wednesday’s (5/16) New York Times. “He was 69. His wife, the guitarist and composer Reg Bloor, said the cause was throat cancer…. Many of his works are meant to be performed at high volumes, partly so that the overtones of his amplified guitars would linger and pile up…. He used unusual tuning systems, Minimalist repetition techniques, complex rhythmic and contrapuntal figures…. He also composed chamber works and symphonies for conventional instruments, beginning with his Symphony No. 7 (1989) and his String Quartet No. 1 (1991)…. He formed his first band, the Crystal Ship, while a student at York College in Pennsylvania in 1967…. In Boston … he … worked in a record store, where … he fell in love with the Mahler symphonies, the Beethoven piano sonatas and works by Varèse, Messiaen and John Cage, as well jazz musicians like Miles Davis and New York punk-rockers like Patti Smith, the Ramones and Television.”

Posted May 17, 2018