Glenn Branca. Photo: Brad Ogbonna / New York Times.

Glenn Branca (1948–2018)

Avant-garde composer and musician Glenn Branca—who influenced countless artists, such as Sonic Youth, John Lurie, and even David Bowie—died on May 14, writes Jake Nevins of The Guardian. He was battling throat cancer.

“I feel grateful to have been able to live and work with such an amazing source of ideas and creativity for the past eighteen and a half years,” wrote his wife and collaborator, experimental guitarist Reg Bloor, in a Facebook post. “His musical output was a fraction of the ideas he had in a given day. His influence on the music world is incalculable. . . . Despite his gruff exterior, he was a deeply caring and fiercely loyal man. We lived in our own little world together. I love him so much.”

In 1976, Branca moved to New York from Boston, where he had studied theater at Emerson College. He met artist Jeffrey Lohn soon after relocating and, with him, formed the band Theoretical Girls. The group broke up in 1981, the same year Branca’s seminal album, The Ascension, was released. Robert Longo’s art graced the cover, and several musicians, including Ned Sublette and Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth), contributed to its making. In 1982, Branca started his own label, Neutral Records, and released several of Sonic Youth’s earliest albums.

Branca put out more than twenty records, including Chicago 82—A Dip in the Lake (1982), The World Upside Down (1992), Empty Blue (2000), and The Ascension: The Sequel (2010). In 2001, he organized a symphony made up of one hundred electric guitars outside the World Trade Center, only months before 9/11. He also received a grant from the illustrious Foundation for Contemporary Artists in 2008.

“The X Magazine benefit in 1979 was perhaps the most amazing series of concerts that I have ever seen,” Lurie stated on Twitter. “Glenn Branca, playing with Theoretical Girls was the best band in the program. It changed my life. Sorry I never had a chance to tell him.”