Glenn Branca’s Hallucination City

I went to the Minimalist Jukebox series tonight at Disney Hall to hear composer Glenn Branca‘s Hallucination City, a piece he originally had premiered for 100 guitars outside the World Trade Center on July 13, 2001—yes, two months before the towers were hit. The piece has been changed since that first performance. There are four movements, the last of which is called “Vengeance.” Branca has always enjoyed making minimalist spectacle. His favorite Romantic composer is Bruckner, who smeared chords and over-suspended modulations. Hallucination City was originally commisioned to be played by 2,000 guitars in Paris—yes, it would have been costly based on musicians fees alone— for the Millenium celebrations, but it never happened. The scaled down premiere at the World Trade Center, if it sounded anything like it did tonight at Disney Hall, would have been enough cacophony to invoke a fatal resonance in the metal, weakening the beams for the assault by Islamo-fascists. In much of Branca’s music, things are made to seem as if they will not withstand the vibration, that they’ll break loose from their moorings. Like Olivier Messiaen (another hero of Branca’s), he uses insistent rhythm to create a death knell, an unease. The bell-like guitars toll endlessly, all the while ascending in whole-tone scales at different rates until they burst into dissonant tone clusters, smearing panic in the sky. Then, in the fourth “Vengeance” movement, the guitars become four jet planes that thrash the air and explode, their jet fuel atomized into particles that rain down on the audience. Tonight I felt as if Branca, coyly and without telegraphing his intentions in his interview with writer Alec Hanley Bemis of the L.A. Weekly, has put one over on us. I had a queasy feeling about applauding while the musicians, the conductor, and Branca took bows. I couldn’t help but wonder: Has the fourth movement’s title been left unchanged since the pre-9/11 version, or was it added afterward to give it new meaning? {title="Glenn Branca’s Hallucination City" permalink=""}

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Posted at 2am on 03/30/2006 | comments are closed Filed Under: Daily

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