Personnel: Glenn Branca, Lee Renaldo (soprano & steel-wire guitars); Ned Sublette (soprano, tenor & steel-wire guitars); Robert Harrison (soprano, tenor & bowed guitars); Craig Bromberg (tenor, soprano, bowed & octave guitars); Thurston Moore (tenor, soprano & bowed guitars); Fritz Van Orden (tenor saxophone); Dave Buk (trumpet, baritone horn); Richard Edson (trumpet); Margot Zvaleko (French horn); Warton Tiers (keyboards, soprano & steel-wire guitars, percussion); Ann DeMarinis (keyboards, percussion); Gail Vachon (keyboards); Stephan Wischerth (drums, percussion).
Recorded live at The Performing Garage, New York, New York on July 18 & 19, 1981. Includes liner notes by Jon Pareles.
Digitally remastered by Glenn Branca and Wharton Tiers.
Finally available on CD after its initial cassette-only 1983 release, SYMPHONY #1 provides a fascinating glimpse of the early work of this maverick rock composer. Branca has become well-known for these symphonies of massed, peak volume guitars and for giving alternative rock figures like Page Hamilton of Helmet and Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth some of their earliest exposure as members of his ensemble.
There are a few surprises in listening to this seminal work. Horns, which do not appear at all in Branca's later symphonies, are used extensively. The metal percussion and straight rock drumming tend to date it to the early '80s, as do the rather heavy-handed gamelan-influenced rhythms of the second movement. Still, the fast strummed guitars and white-noise overdrive Branca is famous for are firmly in place in the third and fourth movements. This isn't the best place to start with Branca (hear Symphonies 2, 3 and 6 first), but for the already initiated it's a necessary addition.