No Wave Cinema


Steve Mass & Diego Cortez.
No wave cinema was an underground filmmaking movement that flourished on the Lower East Side of New York City from about 1976 to 1985. Sponsored by and associated with the artists group Collaborative Projects or ‘Collab’, no wave cinema was a stripped-down style of guerrilla filmmaking that emphasized mood and texture above other concerns — similar to the parallel no wave music movement. This brief movement, also known as New Cinema (after a short-lived screening room on St. Mark’s Place run by several filmmakers on the scene), had a significant impact on underground film. No wave cinema spawned the Cinema of Transgression (Scott B and Beth B, Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Tessa Hughes-Freeland and others) and a new generation of independent filmmaking in New York (Jim Jarmusch, Tom DiCillo, Steve Buscemi, and Vincent Gallo). … In 2010, French filmmaker Céline Danhier created a documentary film titled Blank City. The film presents an oral history of the no wave cinema and Cinema of Transgression movements through interviews with Jarmusch, Kern, Buscemi, Poe, Seidelman, Ahearn, Zedd, John Waters, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, hip-hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and Jack Sargeant. The soundtrack includes music by Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, James Chance and the Contortions, Bush Tetras and Sonic Youth. …”
Wikipedia
Shooting Blanks: A History of No Wave Cinema (Video)

“No Wave 78”

BAM


“BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) is a multi-arts center located in Brooklyn, New York. For more than 150 years, BAM has been the home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas—engaging both global and local communities. With world-renowned programming in theater, dance, music, opera, film, and much more, BAM showcases the work of emerging artists and innovative modern masters.”
BAM
W – Brooklyn Academy of Music
NYT: Brooklyn Academy of Music
YouTube: That’s So New York: Brooklyn Academy of Music 150th Anniversary

Video 50 – Robert Wilson (1978)


“Video 50 is an extraordinary video sketchbook, a highly original, visually dramatic and frequently humorous collection of one hundred abbreviated ‘episodes’ produced for television. Unfolding as a series of thirty-second vignettes, this enigmatic essay in style is characterized by a deadpan theatricality, symbolist imagery, surrealist juxtapositions and repetition of key visual motifs. Indelible images, precisely composed — a man teetering above a waterfall, a floating chair, a winking eye, a parrot against the New York skyline — are accompanied by an ‘architectural’ sound score that includes spoken ‘phonetic patterns’ rather than words. Fusing his surprising visual logic and rhythms with unexpected temporal manipulations, Wilson creates a work of startling wit and poetry. — EAI …”
UbuWeb (Video)
‘Robert Wilson: Video 50’ installation redefines the nature of filmmaking

Fab 5 Freddy’s Latest Cultural Coup? ‘The Archive of the Future’


“When he was hopscotching between segregated poles of 1970s and ’80s New York — the uptown of Grandmaster Flash and the Rock Steady Crew; the downtown of Andy Warhol and Blondie — brokering the kind of cultural exchange that would pave the way for hip-hop’s eventual takeover, Fred Brathwaite, better known as Fab 5 Freddy, never kept a consistent diary. Instead, decades before social media, he documented the events of his daily life on film, deploying either a compact point-and-shoot camera or a Hi8 camcorder that he always kept at the ready. … As a sought-after graffiti artist, music video director, film producer and the original host and creative force behind ‘Yo! MTV Raps,’ Fab 5 Freddy’s lens produced a panorama of future cultural landmarks of New York and beyond, revealing an era when hierarchies of race, class and taste in art were beginning to scramble. His personal photographs and videos, and the narratives they tell, comprise much of a career-spanning archive that was recently acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library. …”
NY Times

Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower East Side – Clayton Patterson (2005)


Captured is the definitive anthology of New York’s underground cinema in its creators’ own words. New York’s Lower East Side has been a fountain of creativity and art since the early 1950s, a free-wheeling bazaar of ideas and artists that has challenged and shaped mainstream culture. Captured tells the story of film and video in the Lower East Side and the East Village in the artists’ own words. Over one hundred contributors discuss the early years with Allen Ginsburg, Andy Warhol, Jack Smith, Taylor Mead, and Jonas Mekas, as well as the wild ’70s and ’80s with Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi, Louis Guzman, Nick Zedd, and many others. Movements such as No Wave and the Cinema of Transgression are covered, as is the story of Pull My Daisy, considered among the true progenitors of ‘indie film.’ Captured is part formal history and part inspirational text, to remind people on the outside looking in how often their contributions form the invisible pillars of American art and popular life. To quote the great pop art filmmaker Jack Smith, ‘Art school? Art school? I didn’t have the luxury of going to art school. I had to come to New York and go straight to work making art.’ Captured is a must-have for fans of independent film and students of cinema everywhere.”
Seven Stories Press
NY Times: The Lower East Side, Up Close and Personal
evergreen review – Review: Clay Patterson’s Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower East Side
amazon

Einstein on the Beach – Composed Philip Glass / Directed Robert Wilson (1976)


Einstein on the Beach is an opera in four acts (framed and connected by five ‘knee plays’ or intermezzos), composed by Philip Glass and directed by theatrical producer Robert Wilson. The opera eschews traditional narrative in favor of a formalist approach based on structured spaces laid out by Wilson in a series of storyboards. The music was written ‘in the spring, summer and fall of 1975’. Glass recounts the collaborative process: ‘I put [Wilson’s notebook of sketches] on the piano and composed each section like a portrait of the drawing before me. The score was begun in the spring of 1975 and completed by the following November, and those drawings were before me all the time.’ The premiere took place on July 25, 1976, at the Avignon Festival in France. The opera contains writings by Christopher Knowles, Samuel M. Johnson and Lucinda Childs. It is Glass’s first and longest opera score, taking approximately five hours in full performance without intermission; given the length, the audience is permitted to enter and leave as desired. … From the beginning of Glass and Wilson’s collaboration, they insisted on portraying the icon purely as a historical figure, in the absence of a storyline attached to his image. While they did incorporate symbols from Einstein’s life within the opera’s scenery, characters, and music, they intentionally chose not to give the opera a specific plot. This is in accord with Wilson’s formalist approach, which he asserts creates more truth on stage than naturalist theater. Wilson structured Einstein on the Beach as a repeating sequence of three different kinds of space. Between major acts are shorter entr’actes known as ‘knee plays,’ a signature technique that Wilson has applied throughout his oeuvre. Propelling idea of ‘non-plot’ within Einstein on the Beach, its libretto employs solfège syllables, numbers, and short sections of poetry. …”
Wikipedia
The Method and Madness of ‘Einstein on the Beach’
iTunes
NPR: The Minds Behind ‘Einstein On The Beach’ Talk Shop (Video)
UbuWeb: Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera (Video)
THE EARTH MOVES. A documentary about Einstein on the Beach. (Video)
YouTube: Einstein on the Beach 4:36:23
YouTube: Philip Glass Ensemble “Train/Spaceship” part 1, “Train/Spaceship” part 2

Black History Month: Post-Soul Culture Circa 1992


“… In the March 17, 1992, issue of the Voice, contributor Nelson George surveyed the ‘post-soul’ landscape and discovered that, ‘as a musical genre, a definition of African American culture, and the code word for our national identity, soul has pretty much been dead since Nixon’s reelection in 1972. But what’s replaced it? Arguing in these pages in 1986, Greg Tate tried to establish a ‘new black aesthetic’ as a defining concept. He had a point, though I’d argue there was more than one aesthetic at work. For better and worse, the spawn of the postsoul era display multiple personalities.’ Indeed, over seventeen pages George explores a broad spectrum of post-soul black aesthetics, and the Voice’s art department helped with diptychs comparing and contrasting Malcolm X to KRS-One and Muhammad Ali and Bundini Brown to Chuck D and Flavor Flav, as well as triptychs of Lisa Bonet and Magic Johnson. …”
Voice

1976 Film Blank Generation Documents CBGB Scene with Patti Smith, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie & More


“Fans of bratty New York punk-turned-serious writer Richard Hell or schlocky German horror director Ulli Lommel or—why not—both, will likely know of Lommel’s 1980 Blank Generation, a film unremarkable except for its casting of Hell and his excellent Voidoids as feature players. (Their debut 1977 album and single are also called Blank Generation.) The movie, as a reviewer puts it, ‘seems as if each member of the production was under the impression they were working on a different film than the rest of their collaborators…. You can’t help but think that something more watchable could be produced out of the raw footage with a good editor.’ One might approach an earlier film, also called Blank Generation—the raw 1976 documentary about the budding New York punk scene above—with similar expectations of coherent production and narrative clarity. But this would be mistaken. …”
Open Curture (Video)
W – The Blank Generation
Voice: Punk Icon Richard Hell Looks Back at “Blank Generation” Forty Years Later

Meredith Monk – Dolmen Music (1980)


Meredith Monk has such a wonderful and unique vocal style that she is able to sing in complete abstraction (no known words or language for much of the album) yet maintain a very emotional and even sentimental quality in these abstractions, at times. Listeners who can get past just how unique and abstract her approach is will find immense joy and sadness deep within her pieces. On Dolmen Music, Monk wavers from being sad to the point of being quite morose (such as the tracks ‘Gotham Lullaby’ and ‘The Tale’) to being happy to the point of hysteria (as on ‘Traveling’ and ‘Biography’) without skipping a beat. Most of the musical accompaniment is minimalist (mainly piano with occasional, sparse percussion, guest vocalists also being prominent on the final six-part track ‘Dolmen Music’). This minimalist support only furthers Monk‘s vast vocal language as the prominent focus in the recordings. Listeners will also be very pleased to find that her wonderful voice is not crowded or overshadowed. A true original, Monk‘s work should be sought by anyone with an interest in vocal exploration. ”
allmusic (Audio)
W – Dolmen Music
The Paris Review: Gotham Lullaby
Discogs
amazon, Spotify, iTunes
YouTube: Dolmen Music film by Peter Greenaway 1983
DailyMotion: Dolmen Music
vimeo: Travelling
YouTube: Gotham Lullaby live at Lensic Center, Education Of The Girlchild – Biography, The Tale

No Wave Is Boring


“Can boredom be art? Can good art be boring? When a work of art is deemed boring, it’s usually an automatic, accepted pejorative. After all, who would want to be bored by art? Yet some artists have actually imagined positive, counterintuitive answers to those seemingly obvious questions. In some particularly vital cases, those answers themselves were inspired by boredom – by the creativity that can arise out of being bored, and desperately wanting to do something about it. The boredom that infected the intersecting music and film scenes called no wave was a distinct product of time and place. New York City in the late 1970s was empty, dangerous and practically cost-free – a bombed-out wasteland open to anyone fearless enough to squat in an abandoned building and siphon electricity from street lights. In their confrontational, rule-rejecting work, no wave artists reacted to the recent past – the bloating of rock music, the homogenization of cinema, the staid pretension of the art world – but also dealt with their numbing present. They faced a gaping hole created by the droves fleeing Manhattan, and a ‘blank generation’” that punk started but didn’t complete. It was up to no wave to blast away the remaining rubble. …”
Red Bull Music Academy Daily (Video)