Paul Simon was making One Trick Pony.
Art Garfunkel was starring in Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing.
In my last post on this topic, I argued that cinema can be redefined as “the cinematic arts,” which would include not only movies and short films, but also music videos, commercials, TV programs, experimental film and video, installation art, video games, Flash animations, animated gifs, and even “nonelectrical” forms of moving images, such as flipbooks and camera obscuras. This redefinition raises a few questions:
After the jump, I’ll try answering each of these questions.
[Update: Part 2 is here]
I don’t truck with any of that. I think it’s important to remember history (even as it changes); I think it’s important to be as clear as possible in one’s terminology; and I regret any and all myopic views of the culture. (Not to mention, the notion of the avant-garde is rather elitist and racist: it posits a view of history in which all innovation flows from middle- and upper-class white folks.)
One need only look at recent music history to put the lie to the term “avant-garde.” Today Facebook showed me the following ad:
In this installment, I’ll be looking at the late 70s American side of New Wave. Whereas British New Wave (The Stranglers, The Jam, The Boomtown Rats, e.g.) strikes me as emerging from punk, or at least leaning fairly closely to punk, US New Wave seems a pretty different animal. It has some clear punk tendencies:
…but at the same time it’s also very different, being:
That all said, both US and UK New Wave share some similarities:
Not every band shares all of these characteristics, of course, but we’ll see plenty of them below…
I’m going to do this somewhat backward, and look at No Wave before I look at New Wave. (But this whole series has been moving backward, so why stop now?)
What was No Wave? As we shall see, No Wave music generally was:
While the UK’s post-punk scene was influenced by punk (especially the Sex Pistols), and sought to extend that influence, No Wave was in many ways a reaction against punk (and against New Wave punk in particular). As Lydia Lunch put it:
Who wanted chords, all these progressions that had been used to death in rock? […] I’d use a knife, a beer bottle… Glass gave the best sound. To this day I still don’t know a single chord on the guitar. (141)
And while No Wave, like post-punk, is rather funky, it generally lacks post-punk’s distinctive dub sound; rather, the music is very simply recorded, often in single takes, and without many studio effects. Indeed, many surviving No Wave recordings are from live club shows.
Let’s look at some of the bands, and what’s been recorded…
What is innovation in art? This is something I’ve circled in my other posts, for example:
Now I’ll try addressing it a little more head-on.
All art contains both innovation (unfamiliarity) and convention (familiarity). Some artworks are so familiar as to preexist themselves. I didn’t like Andrzej Wajda’s recent film Katyn (2007), thinking it nothing more than a string of war movie clichés (this time in Polish). Its being unoriginal and predictable annoyed me; I might have walked out (or fallen asleep) had I not gone to see it with a couple of friends (who for the record both really liked it). And I felt as though its unoriginality trivialized its very serious subject matter, the Katyn Massacre.
On the other hand, some artworks are so radically different from what we know and expect that we can’t make any sense of them, let alone recognize them as artworks: