Glenn Branca symphonies

Having owned a cassette of his Symphony #1 (refed back in Sep 2018) and Symphony #3 on vinyl in college, I’ve had some persistent curiosity about his other symphonies. I’m not sure I’ll acquire them (those that are acquireable) because I’m a little out of the noise-rock thing at the moment, but I’d like to at least document what’s available. This information is gathered from:

Other, symphony-specific sources listed with their respective symphony.

The symphonies with released recordings are:

  • Symphony No. 1 (Tonal Plexus) (ROIR, 1983), cassette, LP, CD
  • Symphony No. 2 (The Peak of the Sacred) (Atavistic, 1992), LP, CD
  • Symphony No. 3 (Gloria) (Atavistic, 1983), LP
  • Symphony No. 5 (Describing Planes of an Expanding Hypersphere) (Atavistic, 1999), CD
  • Symphony No. 6 (Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven) (Blast First/Atavistic, 1989), CD
  • Symphony No. 7 (Graz) (Systems Neutralizers, 2011), CD
  • The Mysteries (Symphonies Nos. 8 & 10) (Blast First/Atavistic, 1994), CD
  • Symphony No. 9 (l’eve future) (Point, 1995), cassette, CD
  • Symphony No. 13 (Hallucination City) For 100 guitars (Atavistic, 2015), FLAC, CD

There are many YouTube videos of the recordings.

Symphony #1 “Tonal Plexus”

1981, published 1983 by ROIR; 4 movements; guitars, keyboards, brass, percussion; 55:08 min


Movement 1, 11:45
Movement 2, 15:45
Movement 3, 17:29
Movement 4, 10:09

Symphony #2 “The Peak of the Sacred”

1982, published 1992 by Altavistic; 5 movements; 8 mallet guitars, taped harmonic guitars, bass drums, metal percussion, drums; 73:27, reported as ~76


First Movement (Slow Mass), 22:19
Second Movement (Radioactive Poltergeist Kitchen), 19:45
Third Movement (Melodrama And Nuclear Physics In The Global Theater), 18:38
Fourth Movement (Sacred Field), 10:27
Fifth Movement (In The Late 20th Century The Impossible Becomes Possible (Short Excerpt)), 2:18

Symphony #3 “Gloria”

Music from the First Seven Octaves of the Harmonic Series; 1983 by Neutral Records; 1 movement; modified harpsichords, bass, drums; 45:29 min

Premiered Jan 1983 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

a copy of the program of the premiere performance, for sale at BAM, Glenn Branca, Symphony No. 3, Program, 1983


Side A, 22:15
Side B, 23:14

Symphony #4 “Physics”

Music from the First Seven Octaves of the Harmonic Series (with 10 Hertz as the fundamental frequency); 1983; 4 movements, 7 (?) mallet guitars, organ, drum, and bass

The only documentation I could find on this is an 11 min 10 sec video by performance artist Arleen Schloss containing analog video from 1984 from a European tour that may-or-may-not contain fragments of the #4 performance. I hear some of #1 at points.

Farewell Glenn Branca – you darkened the skies, as promised (Scanner, 14 May 2018)

This article was written the day after Branca died of throat cancer and reprints an older article by the author reminiscing their attendance of the British premiere of #4 as a teen. (They remember their being 3 instead of 4 movements.) The author points out that:

Interestingly no recordings exist of Symphony No. 4. It is the one missing principal work in the canon of Branca.

MoMA has a gig poster for the concert. Five shows in May of 1983.

Symphony #5 “Describing Planes of an Expanding Hypersphere”

1984, published 1999 by Altavistic; 7 movements; mallet guitar, guitar, harmonics guitar, modified harpsichord, keyboard, violin, bass, drums; 44:18

Discogs (Branca’s website says 7 movements):

1st Movement, 7:28
2nd Movement, 3:23
3rd Movement, 5:42
4th Movement, 7:42
5th Movement (Part I), 2:29
5th Movement (Part II), 3:07
5th Movement (Part III), 2:58
6th Movement, 11:29

First movement (complete?) performed live:

Symphony #6 “Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven”

1987 and 1988 (revised), published 1989 by Blast First/Atavistic; 4 movements (5 revised); bass, drums, 8-10 guitars, keyboards; 45:55

The first version had 4 movements and was titled Angel Choir At The Gates Of Hell. The revised version has 5 movements.

image from #11: Glenn Branca's Symphony No. 6 — Jim Shedden Projects, possibly taken from the liner notes


First Movement, 15:57
Second Movement, 8:07
Third Movement, 5:22
Fourth Movement, 4:37
Fifth Movement, 11:52

Symphony #7 “Graz” (or “For Orchstra”)

1989, published 2011 by Systems Neutralizers; 3 movements (listed on Branca’s site), 5 movements (from the recording); symphony orchestra; 47:02

The world première of this symphony occurred in Graz, Austria, at the 1989 edition of the Steirischer Herbst Festival; this recording, except for a few missing segments, is the lone evidence of its complete execution. Conducted by Gunter Meinhart, the Graz Festival Orchestra was taped in a somewhat problematic environment: throughout the performance, ear-catching audience noises tested my forbearance, partially disfiguring the positive stimulus given by the music (in particular, a woman’s compulsive coughing sounds so graphic at times that one sadistically envisions her termination in a sanatorium). In “Freeform” we hear a small explosion followed by shattered glass; perhaps a stage light’s failure.

from GLENN BRANCA – Symphony No.7 (For Orchestra), Massimo Ricci, 24 Apr 2012


1st Movement: Shivering Air, 5:52
2nd Movement: Freeform, 12:43
3rd Movement: Harmonic Series Chords (Part One), 8:47
3rd Movement: Harmonic Series Chords (Part Two), 5:39
4th Movement: Old School, 5:51
5th Movement: Shaking Light (Part One), 3:22
5th Movement: Shaking Light (Part Two), 4:48

Symphony #8 “The Mystery, Part 1”

1992; 2 movements; sextet: guitars, bass, drums; 38:07

Premiered at The Kitchen in NYC 16 Nov – 20 Nov 1994. This concert was filmed and released as a DVD.

Discogs (#8 and #10):

First Movement (The Passion), 19:04
Second Movement (Spiritual Anarchy), 19:03

Symphony #9 “L’eve Future”

1993, published 1995 by POINT; orchestra and chorus, 47:05

Symphony #10 “The Mystery, Part 2”

1994; 2 movements; sextet: guitars, bass, drums; 27:36

Discogs (#8 and #10):

First Movement (The Final Problem), 13:17
Second Movement (The Horror), 14:19

Symphony #11 “The Netherlands” Die Gegenfeld Part I

1998; 1 movement; chorus and orchestra

Symphony #12 “Tonal Sexus”

1998; 1 movement; 7 guitars, bass, drums

Symphony #13 “Hallucination City”

2001, published 2015 by Atavistic; 100 guitars (same as #16), drums, 1:10:54


March, 19:49
Chant, 21:09
Drive, 12:48
Vengeance, 17:08

The year before, the staging of this opus had been miserably aborted thanks to a series of holes in the Italian organization, incapable of recruiting the necessary amount of players in due time after having agreed a date with the artist. And even when the concert finally took place (and trust me, it was fantastic) I vividly remember Glenn Branca’s disgruntled expression – in relation to something that we never learnt – at the end of the adventure.

from GLENN BRANCA – Symphony No.13 (Hallucination City) For 100 Guitars, Massimo Ricci, 10 Aug 2016

Symphony #14 “The Harmonic Series”

2008; orchestra

In the Foundation for Contemporary Arts article (listed at the top of the page) Branca lists the planned movements, though only the first was written.

1st Movement, “2,000,000,000 Light Years From Home”
2nd Movement, “O Tempera, O Mores”
3rd Movement, “The Grand Sonic Field”
4th Movement, “Lost Chords (‘to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’)”
5th Movement, “The Universe (for Charles Ives)”
6th Movement, “The Museum of Modern Music Philharmonic”
7th Movement, “Jesus H. Christmas”
8th Movement, “Twisting In Space.”

Symphony #15 “Running Through The World Like An Open Razor (Music for Strange Orchestra)”

2010 orchestra, guitars, tambura, shrutis, swarsangum, harmonics guitars, Asian instruments, melodica, pennywhistle, wine glasses, walkie talkies, paperback books, others

Instrument list combined from Glenn Branca 1948–2018 and Avant-Garde Composer Glenn Branca Recounts His Cacophonic Symphonies One-By-One (both listed at the top of the page).

Premiered at LPR in New York City on 20-21 Nov 2010.

flyer of premiere performance from Glenn Branca Will Premiere His Next Guitar Symphony At (Le) Poisson Rouge Next Month (Village Voice, 13 Oct 2010)

Symphony #16 “Orgasm”

2015; 100 guitars (same as #13)