My mother got me this book for Christmas:
I enjoyed it; I’ve always liked no wave. I started listening to music before I had regular internet access, so I turned, as ever, to books . Rolling Stone’s Women in Rock and Alec Foege’s Confusion is Next, a history of Sonic Youth, were the two volumes that guided my listening selections as a young teenager. I don’t even remember how I found Sonic Youth, but my suspicion is that they were a recommendation from my librarian, Tom. The library had an extensive CD collection, where I discovered Joy Division and the Pixies, among others.
As a result of Confusion is Next, I listened to Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra alongside Hole, PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth, and Blink 182. I can’t claim that my choices were the result of a sophisticated ear or a precocious musical palate, but I enjoyed all of them. The first song I ever downloaded from the internet was Lydia Lunch and Rowland S. Howard’s “What is Memory,” which was a free mp3 download somewhere. (I had about three weeks of self-righteous glory in refusing to illegally download music after my family got internet at home. Then I caved and installed Napster.) So the stars of no wave and I have had a long musical history.
No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980. is an excellent oral and photographic history of that time period. It captures what I had known (or been able to conceive of, at 13 or 14): the grittiness, poverty, dirtiness of New York in the late seventies and early eighties.
Lydia Lunch was 16 and 17 at the zenith of the no wave scene. I was surprised to discover that I’ve been unwittingly aping her style, decades in the future.
The thing that I always loved, and which always fascinated me about no wave, was the wealth of strong, brash women making music and involved in the scene. Lydia Lunch, although she might have been the teen queen bee, was far from an exception. The untutored sound of many no wave bands was what invited in their members, many of whom had never played an instrument before. Lunch, Ikue Mori, Pat Place, Barbara Ess, Adele Bertai, and Nancy Arlen were just a few of the women in the bands that comprised the no wave scene.
Of course, as I always do, I exhausted my library resources and requested a number of related books to read. You call it what you want; I’ll call it distraction from the stress of the academic year. I also bought Rome ’78, a film starring many no wave regulars, because I couldn’t find it through any lending venue. As it turns out, the movie is out of print, but it’s available on DVD from Don of Subterranean Cinema for a reasonable price.
Tonight, I am listening to Telefon Tel Aviv, an IDM ensemble who are not really related to this post at all.