Lesson Zero: Tribute To Glenn Branca

Glenn Branca died on May 13, 2018. The news broke in my house around 5:30 AM today, the worst possible daybreak in an already bad enough period.

I love how his wife – guitarist Reg Bloor – pictured him in the Facebook post announcing Branca’s passing: “Despite his gruff exterior, he was a deeply caring and fiercely loyal man”. One could not put it better than this.

And, I should add, he was also a very generous man. Ask yourselves how many famous composers would help an insignificant midget blogging from an underdeveloped country with a laudatory remark and a link on the New York Times. The correct answer is “none would”. Yet, in 2007, Branca did exactly this for yours truly. I will not forget that gesture, which tells a lot about his open-mindedness and good heart in a world where less relevant individuals do not even bother to send a “thank you” note after increasing their renown via positive reviews.

An irredeemable atheist as every minimally intuitive person ought to be, Branca seemed to have no interest whatsoever in normal social relationships or self-aggrandizing publicity. If anything, he was often quoted for being a part of controversial episodes. Just think of the infamous John Cage sentence superficially comparing the strength of his music to fascism: that mindless line generated a wave of anti-Branca ignorance in various sectors of artistic intelligentsia. At the same time, it caused my reassessment of Cage’s overall cleverness.

Most people can’t quite grasp the concept of infinity. They desperately look for coordinates; for beginnings, ends and recurrences; for leading figures; for “invisible men”, as Branca splendidly described deities in this interview. By working on unusual acoustic properties while giving the finger to any kind of sonic expectation, he attempted to contribute to the evolution of at least a chunk of human specimens unwilling to identify his majestic resonant masses with the word “cacophony”.

On the other hand, it is nobody’s fault if there are levels of perception beyond mere words, and if those unable to discern intrinsic signals in an apparent chaos inevitably disrespect those who do. For Glenn Branca – and for the students of his oeuvre – dissonance and consonance are never partitioned.

It’s called “harmony”. And, as I was blasting “Quadratonic” this morning, I didn’t smell any incense.

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