Earlier this month, when we saw Pharmakon, Genesis P-Orridge, Merzbow and others at “Nothing Changes” during the Red Bull Music Academy Festival, we bumped into legendary no-wave composer Glenn Branca and his wife and ensemble member Reg Bloor in the crowd. Over the thrum on stage, they managed to tell us they’ll be closing out the annual Bang on a Can Marathon, returning to the Winter Garden on June 21.
A recent announcement confirms that the Glenn Branca Ensemble will be performing Ascension Three — which is even more exciting than the eBay auction Branca is having (do not even think of bidding on that harmonic series guitar, you fuckers). The piece, written for a sextet that includes four guitars, premiered in Hamburg last October and has yet to be unleashed stateside. It’s a follow-up to Branca’s 1981 piece The Ascension, the rerelease of which scored a perfect 10 in a Pitchfork review that noted the composer’s influence on bands like Sonic Youth (Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore were both ensemble members, as Branca recalled during our 65th-birthday conversation with him).
No, this won’t be as epic as a symphony for 100 guitars, but then again you don’t have to buy a plane ticket to Paris to see it. In fact, you don’t have to buy a ticket at all, because the Bang On a Can Marathon — an annual must-do ever since it was started in a Soho gallery in 1987 — is gloriously free, despite the bevy of eclectic and ambitious performances on offer during its 10 hours. Afro-Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptisa will also be doing a turn, and there are still others on the bill that habitués of John Zorn’s East Village venue The Stone will recognize: drummer Bobby Previte and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline will reprise their collaboration from Terminals, Grand Band will be performing compositions for six pianos, and Bang on a Can’s mobile street band Asphalt Orchestra will be doing Pixies songs (just in case you couldn’t shell out $60+ to see the real deal these past few nights).
Still more performers are listed here, but it’s Branca’s performance we’re looking forward to the most. Having premiered “Hallucination City” at the base of the World Trade Center just a few months before September 11, 2001, this marks his triumphant return, of sorts, to lower Manhattan. And a well timed one, at that. Across the street from Brookfield Place’s Winter Garden, where the Branca Ensemble will do its thing, the new WTC’s observation center officially opens today.