Glenn Branca | Lesson No. 1

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Lesson No. 1

by Glenn Branca

Three of Branca's earliest instrumental guitar pieces: "Lesson No. 1" and "Dissonance" written in 1979 and "Bad Smells" written in 1982 for Twyla Tharp. It includes Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo on guitars.
Genre: Rock: No Wave
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Lesson No. 1 for Electric Guitar
8:14 $0.99
2. Dissonance
11:38 album only
3. Bad Smells
16:27 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
"Lesson No 1" and "Dissonance" were both written in 1979. They were a part of series of four extended instrumentals I wrote that year. The first was "Instrumental for Six Guitars" that was written for Max's Easter Festival.
At the time I was still doing both of my bands Theoretical Girls and The Static. Theoretical Girls was invited to play on the bill with The Contortions and The Model Citizens (who were very popular at the time). Since I was in Europe touring with The Static Jeff Lohn of T-Girls took the call and told them he could do a solo piece he was working on instead of the band, although I would have been back in town in time to do the gig. He also contacted Rhys Chatham (who had never played at any of the clubs in NY) and made a deal with him. Jeff would get him on the festival if Rhys (being the music director of The Kitchen) would give Jeff his own show at the Kitchen. The whole thing was unbelievably sleazy.
As it happens when I got back to NY I ran into Rhys outside of Fanelli's Bar. We went in for a couple drinks, and Rhys already being pretty high on booze, coke and Quaaludes, spilled the whole story to me. I was really pissed off that Jeff would pull something like this but there were still two weeks before the show. I set up a meeting with Peter Crowley who was booking Max's at the time and I suggested that I could also put together a short solo piece and would he be interested. He said sure. So now, instead of Theoretical Girls, all three of us were on the bill with the other two bands. Jeff was doing a two keyboard piece with his girlfriend, Rhys was doing the only piece he had, his one chord "Guitar Trio" and I quickly wrote a piece I had been thinking about for a while "Instrumental For Six Guitars". It wasn't something I could do with my bands. I used the three octave guitar tuning I had been using with The Static. I had a lot of ideas for tunings but this was one didn't require actually restringing the guitar, making it more reasonable for people to use their own guitars. I had enough friends who could play and with the break up of "Youth In Asia" I was able to work with their drummer who I had seen play and thought was incredible. He was Stephan Wischerth and it would be the first time I would play with him. Eventually he would be my drummer for many years.
As things turned out the piece was not only a tremendous success but also a breakthrough in my work. I had never tried anything like this and was blown away by the sheer power and potential of massed guitars and the use of more complex compositional techniques than I could do with a small band.

Later when I approached Max's about getting a gig for The Static Peter suggested that I just do "Glenn Branca". I had never given such a thing any thought but we ended up doing a program with The Static and Glenn Branca's "Instrumental For Six Guitars".
Later that year I got my first commission from the dancers Eiko and Koma to write a piece to be performed by The Static with a piece that they would choreograph to the music. This turned out to be the instrumental "The Spectacular Commodity". It was performed live by the band with Eiko and Koma and premiered at The Performing Garage that summer under the name "Fluttering Black". At the time the piece was just for two guitars and drums. We did six shows. All sold out, standing ovations. I know that Rhys and Karol Armitage were there together and most certainly used the anarchistic nature of the show to conceive their idea for the soon to come "Drastic Classicism".
In the fall I premiered "Dissonance" on a diverse program at The Kitchen with a new band that would eventually be referred to as The Ascension Band. I was still doing The Static as well, but when my drummer (Christine Hahn) decided to move to Berlin to live with the visual artist Kippenberger, I had to come up with something for a gig I had scheduled at TR3 in December. That piece was "Lesson No.1 (for electric guitar)". The original version was just me and Paul McMann with Stephan Wischerth on drums. Later I would expand the piece for the full "Ascension Band". That was 1979. And as they used to say it was "a heady time".

"Bad Smells" was a commission from the Twyla Tharp Dance Company that was written and recorded in 1982.



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