Orchestration: Composers Reveal Tricks of the Trade Glenn Branca



Glenn Branca

Writing for guitars is only part of my work. Of my last 7 symphonies (7 through 13), 4 have been for guitars and 3 have been for orchestra. Actually I have written a number of orchestral pieces many of which have appeared on CD. In fact most of my symphonies have not been for conventional guitars at all. Numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 were all for various keyboards and dulcimer-type instruments mainly. Of course I am aware of the fact that most people think of me in terms of guitars, but for 15 years now I have worked with a great variety of instrumentation including both standard tunings and various microtonal tunings for both acoustic and electric instruments in the context of small, large, and gigantic ensembles. In fact my early work, before I started a rock band in NYC in 1977, was mainly electro-acoustic and had no connection to rock or guitars whatsoever (music that I wrote for my Bastard Theatre and The Dubious Music Ensemble in Boston circa 1974-1976).

Yes, I love the sound of a loud rock band when it’s good. I also love the sound of an orchestra when it’s playing a great piece well. I’ve heard Mahler completely destroyed more than a couple times.

I’ve always treated my work with guitars, considering the obvious differences in timbre, range and volume, exactly the same as any other instrument.