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New York, June 13, 2001
Emily XYZ's e-mail on the Hallucination City concert
Symphony No.13 for 100 Guitars


I don't know if you're in town today, but if you are, Glenn Branca is doing a 100 guitars piece at the WTC plaza (between the towers) tonight at 7 pm. It's free. My husband (usually drummer) is playing bass, so I'll be there -- was at the rehearsal last night and it sounded great. Definitely a good setting for that music!

Did you hear it? I had to read in Bklyn Bridge Anchorage and would have much much much preferred to hear the Branca gig. I heard him at the Kitchen once and it almost made my ears bleed. Tell me all. -- R.

I heard it. In fact, I'm still hearing it. I'm surprised *you* didn't hear it! That was the first time I've heard a Glenn guitar piece outdoors, and it really worked. The music's enormous, spacious natural-force quality fit right in at the base of the WTC on a warm spring evening. The sound didn't do all those painful bouncing things it can do indoors. Like for example at the Anchorage, where they played last summer -- OUCH. Very unpleasant.

I've taken pictures at a lot of their shows. Originally I was just "with Virgil" but that doesn't much fly w/ Glenn, he hates hangers-on, so I realized if I wanted to hang around I should make myself useful. So I started taking pictures -- which Glenn also hates, but at least he understands. Anyway, so I get to be VERY close to that sound, which is fabulous. Virgil's been the drummer for Glenn's ensemble since like 89, I think -- if you saw the Kitchen shows, you saw him playing drums.

The show was pretty amazing -- It really gelled, even compared to how it sounded at the afternoon rehearsal. It was kinda easier music than some of his stuff has been -- like being run over by your own tank instead of the enemy's. Still this huge sound, but somehow not as tortured, I think maybe a little easier for the musicians to play and a little more comprehensible to the average listener. Because he had like 10 or 12 bass players, it was also more like an orchestra, with different sections that dropped in and out. There were of course a lot of people there, and they LOVED it!! There were even a lot of old people -- like, in their 70s old -- who sat thru the entire thing and seemed to really dig it.

It was also fun to see the players, most of whom had never done anything like this before, just digging on creating this monumental sound. A few of the younger guitarists looked totally ecstatic afterwards.

All in all, a fabulous time! Wish you were there.

(next day:)

Still buzzing over here. Soul feels scrubbed clean. Best thing abt Branca's work is how it just BLOWS you to a whole other place and reconnects you to everything art and truth and breath and beauty. That's what people *really* love about it -- not the volume, but the power. I adore Glenn Branca.

The stuff is so awe-inspiring, so totally clean and what-it-is -- so much like a tornado or a hurricane or a clean waterfall somewhere high up -- this really simple, really forceful, overwhelming sound that just does not vary and does not let up. And to see this and hear this at the base of the World Trade Center was just incredible. People were in like meditative poses -- one woman was lying face down on the ground, others just had this look of bliss on their faces -- Only in NYC could people go head-to-head with this kind of sound and consider it bliss (yet another reason to love NYC). But really, this in the open air on a beautiful spring night -- well, very warm and hazy, actually, but still -- the great outdoors is a good place to see Glenn Brancaís work, there are no nasty hard surfaces, or only one -- the ground -- and everything sort of evanesces nicely once it gets going.

The people in the group were really going for it, too, it was fun to see their faces as the piece progressed. At the beginning, theyíre all just sort of playing, paying attention. About 10 or 15 minutes in, it starts to gain altitude and peoplesí wrists start to hurt and you can just see everything get more intense. Then Glenn goes into this dance, these wizard moves and the whole thing just *lifts*, all of a piece, everybody is totally connnected and merged in this giant sound and you kind of wonder, Is this going to damage the World Trade Center? You think it canít get more intense but then he ratchets it up another few notches and people start to go beyond the threshold of pain into a wierd, vibrational high -- not just the people playing, *everybody* -- But the people playing feel it especially much, and many of them were clearly digging how amazing they sounded. The audience of course has usually surrendered unconditionally by this point and is either being raped and looted and burned or completely relocated -- The sky has gone from the shining haze of sunset to the pearly smoke of twilight and the place by now is well levitated, guitarists bassists drummer listeners all gone past pleasure and pain into a realm of pure being, carried by music so dense and overpowering you could probably drill it and find the remains of previous band members and audiences -- Then he waves his arms, counts four (you canít hear this, only see), brings his hands down and itís over. Crowd goes wild, Glenn vanishes...band packs up and goes home.

Oh yeah, your other questions -- the piece was scored, all his pieces are, the musicians have charts, it's all written out and he gives very specific directions how it should be played. Only the drums do not have a part -- Virgil usually just invents something that will work and that Glenn likes. It's kind of amazing how well Glenn can hear individual guitars in this mass of noise, but he can pick out people who are not, say, tuned correctly, or not strumming in the even, unaccented manner that he wants, and correct them.

The piece was not recorded that I know of -- at least not officially.

Virgil's going to London today w/ Glenn to do a trio thing w/ him and his new wife, Reg, a guitarist -- they are opening for Sonic Youth at Royal Festival Hall Saturday night.

(R. replies:)
Sounds like it was REALLY FUN. I like the guitar stuff, so I'd probably really like that thing. The trio opening for Sonic Youth sounds really good too. Didn't Thurston play for Branca when he was a kid? Way back in the eighties?


Not only Thurston Moore but Lee Ranaldo used to play in Glenn's band. That's where they got their sound from. I would really like to see that show. Glenn and Virgil did this insane thing together at the benefit to buy back my CD 2 years ago, Glenn played this double-bodied single-neck guitar he invented and V did this wild free jazz/hard rock drumming. It was an atrocious racket but cool, in that I'll-flatten-you-and-you'll-love-it Glenn way. So I guess they're just gonna pour noise on the heads of 3000 Sonic Youth fans for half an hour and see what happens.


emily xyz 6/14-15/01

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