field report no.051616

LOCATION: Masonic Hall NY.NY
SUBJECT: Glenn Branca's Symphonies

A crack team of (mostly) young guitarists was assembled to lend new voice to Glenn Branca's monstrous guitar symphonies (half of Symphony no.8, and Symphonies nos.10 & 12, to be exact). It should be telling that about a third of the ensemble hails from today's avant metal scene. 

Branca's work operates best at intense volumes. It's focus is on harmonics and overtones, and it takes brute force to get those hidden elements to really sing. Each of the guitars is precisely tuned to fill out a specific role in the choir, and when things really get humming, ghostly voices start emerging from the din. I couldn't help but try and pin down which player these swoops were emerging from, but to my surprise, it was no one. It was the strange meeting of all the composite harmonic parts and the sonic potential of the room itself.

The one part Branca's work that always put me off on was his use of drummers. I get that it tethers the more esoteric portions of the work back to its roots as a scuzzy rock-n-roll beast, but it often feels too leaden for the unholy racket. Either Greg Fox is just a much better, more dynamic drummer than his predecessors or it works live in a way that hasn't translated to record well. Fox was the pulsing heart each piece, pushing the work further and higher, and not simply a dull metronome keeping time with plodding, martial rhythms.

NOTES: Mick Barr; Ben Greenburg; Arad Evans; Fabi Reyna; Hayley Fohr; Reg Bloor; Ben Greenburg; Hunter Hunt-Hendrix; Randy Randall; Justin Frye; Greg Fox