Glenn Branca was born in Pennsylvania in 1948. Throughout his career, he garnered recognition as a composer, musician, and creator. Branca's experimentation with sound in his music led to his passion for experimental theater, which served as inspiration for his theater group, Bastard Theater. Branca's search for unique sounds heavily influenced his compositions, which included orchestras of electric guitars and percussion, rattling chains, steel sheets, and even swinging metal cans. Branca was well-known for his experimentation with the harmonic series and alternative tunings of instruments.1 He is also considered to be a founder of the No Wave Movement, a musical genre named for its characteristic avant-garde nature, which emerged in the late 1970s in New York City.
Glenn Branca was highly interested in the versatility of the guitar as an instrument, which led him to create several of his own design, including harmonic guitars with three bridges and even “mallet” guitars, which consisted of many strings and acted as percussive instruments, meant to be played with drumsticks.2 Though thought to have drawn inspiration primarily from genres such as classical and rock, Branca indicated punk and jazz as two of his greatest influences.
Branca is the recipient of many awards and accolades such as the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award, an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. Glenn Branca's orchestral works have been performed worldwide, by orchestras such as the London Sinfonietta, the Orchestra of St. Lukes, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.3
Branca relocated to New York City in 1976, where he remained until his death due to throat cancer in 2018.4
John Cage Talking About Branca
2 NPR: Composer and Leading Avant Garde Guitarist Glenn Branca Has Died at 69
Glenn Branca Solo 1978
4 Glenn Branca Interview: Sounds From the Subconscious