Glenn Branca: Symphony No. 2 "The Peak of the Sacred"

Glenn Branca

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Glenn Branca: Symphony No. 2 "The Peak of the Sacred" Review

by Blair Sanderson

Throughout the 1980s -- following his breakthrough work Indeterminate Activity of Resultant Masses -- Glenn Branca began composing a series of 10 large-scale symphonies, which includes the present work, Symphony No. 2, "The Peak of the Sacred." Branca followed a steady (some critics would say static) course, composing resonant, clangorous soundscapes of almost imponderable density and length, which hit their stride early, swell to maximum volume, then stay at a high level of intensity for over an hour with little relaxation. Yet there is a difference between Branca on CD and Branca in performance, and much is lost in the reproduction. In live settings, one is able to appreciate the unpredictable but intended interplay of overtones and acoustics, and the physical presence of Branca's mallet guitarists and percussionists adds considerably to the music's power and sense of space. On disc, the results are flatter and too much is left to the imagination. Even for a work as cosmic in mood and scope as the Symphony No. 2, this live recording fails to capture Branca's full range of sonorities and subtly changing textures, and the listener may feel the music is boxed-in and less than magnificent. While the work itself is daring and bracing, and worth the attention of adventurous listeners, the sound is problematic and disappointing.

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