||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
It's free. My husband (usually drummer) is
bass, so I'll be there -- was at the rehearsal
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.
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
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
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.
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