Just as we began to worry, rather dramatically, that New York had lost the last of its great geniuses, Glenn Branca, the uber influential modernist composer who at one point collaborated with David Bowie, has announced a rare live show. He’ll be leading the US premiere of The Third Ascension at The Kitchen on Feb. 23 and 24.
We caught a sneak-peek of this opus at the Bang on a Can marathon back in June, and it was, improbably, every bit as hair-raising and mind-blowing as was the symphony for 100 guitars that we traveled to freakin’ Paris to see. (Did we mention Branca performances are a rare thing?) According to The Kitchen (the firebrand composer’s longtime stomping grounds– literally), this new version has been reworked since then and will be recorded for an album release. You can grip tickets here.
The piece, written for a sextet that includes four guitars, premiered in Hamburg last October. 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).
During our 65th-birthday conversation with Branca, he recalled a collaboration with David Bowie that never saw the light of day.
It was unreal; it was surreal. Wharton [Tiers, Branca’s former drummer, who attended the q&a and will play Coco 66 on Thursday, October 17] had this funky little studio down in the basement of his apartment building. His apartment was upstairs, you know? Bowie was totally cool about it but the thing is, he comes in and for the first 10 minutes he’s there he does like this stand-up comedy act, impressions and everything. It was like, “Whoa man, what’s this guy on?” … The job he did on this kind of stream-of-consciousness crazed text that Tony [Oursler] had written and I had written the music for and Reg had done guitar improv over (because my piece of music was an orchestral piece that had been sampled and I figured it’s Bowie, we gotta have some guitar…), he was like no one I’ve ever met before in my life, he was a trip. He really felt like he needed to be the person you imagined him to be… David, maybe I didn’t mention, did an amazing job on it — I mean he, I was totally knocked out. And I’m not sure if he had ever even seen the text before, you know. But he just had – he’s actually a better actor than you’ve seen in the movies.
Branca has also announced a June 11 show of “Meta-Music” at Roulette, described as a “concert of new and recent works and the World Premiere of the Glenn Branca Electro-Acoustic Octet.”