Lesson No. 1
Following a spectacular rise to cult fame with his No Wave band Theoretical Girls, Glenn Branca made his first steps in composition with an album called Lesson No. 1 released in 1980. As you’d expect from a former member of an underground rock band, Lesson No. 1 was unlike anything any other composer had ever composer before. Monstrously loud and bold, it also in some ways fit the minimalist archetype, focusing as it did on rhythm and repetition. But this time it was also unashamedly rock ’n' roll. The eponymous Lesson No. 1 sees two guitars oscillate steadily on an interval of a fifth. Drones swing in, as do drums. Neither completely loosen the bonds of the insistent but peppy ostinato. The work was the start of some even more adventurous compositions. In 1983 he wrote his first symphony for electric guitars, which was again uncompromisingly loud. It didn't endear him to the established classical avant-garde. John Cage called his music fascist. Branca didn't let this lie: "If you don't know what it means to be into rock music. If you don't know what it means to go to a concert because it's going to be loud, and intense, and beating right through your chest, if you don't understand that you're getting up there to have a physical experience, then you're going to have trouble with my music."