No Wave was a short-lived but influential underground music, film, performance art, video, and contemporary art scene that had its beginnings during the mid-1970s in New York City. The term No Wave is in part satirical word play rejecting the commercial elements of the then-popular New Wave genre—a term imported into the New York contemporary artworld by Diego Cortez in a show he curated called "New York/New Wave" held at the Institute for Art and Urban Resources (1981).

Styles and CharacteristicsEdit

No Wave is not a clearly definable musical genre with consistent features. Various groups drew on such disparate styles as funk, jazz, blues, punk rock, avant garde, and experimental. There are, however, some elements common to most No Wave music, such as abrasive atonal sounds, repetitive driving rhythms, and a tendency to emphasize musical texture over melody—typical of La Monte Young's early downtown music.

In 1978 a punk-influenced noise series was held at New York’s Artists Space that led to the Brian Eno-produced recording No New York, documenting James Chance and the Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, and DNA.

Sonic Youth made their first live appearance at Noise Fest, a noise music festival curated by Thurston Moore at the art space White Columns in June 1981. Each night three to five acts performed, including Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Rudolph Grey, Robin Crutchfield's Dark Day, and others.

No Wave had a notable influence on noise and industrial bands which followed, such as Big Black, Helmet, and Live Skull. Theoretical Girls influenced Sonic Youth, who emerged from the scene and eventually reached mass audiences and critical acclaim. The influence was important for more recent bands such as The Flying Luttenbachers, Liars, Ex Models, Neptune, and Erase Errata.

Simon Reynolds, author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, wrote:
"And although "affection" is possibly an odd word to use in reference to a bunch of nihilists, I do feel fond of the No Wave people. James Chance's music actually stands up really well, I think; there are great moments throughout Lydia Lunch's long discography, and Suicide's records are just beautiful."

No Wave inspired the Speed Trials noise rock series organized by Live Skull members in May 1983 at White Columns with The Fall, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, Elliott Sharp, Swans, and Arto Lindsay. This was followed by the after-hours Speed Club that was fleetingly established at ABC No Rio.

No Wave CinemaEdit

No Wave Cinema was an underground film movement coming out of Tribeca and the East Village, Manhattan at the time. No Wave filmmakers included: Amos Poe, Eric Mitchell, James Nares, Jim Jarmusch, Vivienne Dick, Scott B and Beth B, and Seth Tillett (among others) and led to the Cinema of Transgression and work by Nick Zedd and Richard Kern.

No Wave MusiciansEdit

8 Eyed Spy, Arsenal, Beirut Slump, Blinding Headache, Blue Humans, Bush Tetras,Daily Life, Dark Day, DNA, Flaming Youth, Glenn Branca Ensemble, Implog, Information, Jack Ruby, James Chance and The Contortions, John Gavanti, Kongress, Mars, Mofungo, N Dodo Band, Pill Factory, Red Transistor, Rhys Chatham Ensemble, Rotating Power Tools, Stare Kits, Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, Terminal, The Bloods, The Clothespins, The Gynecologists, The Raybeats, The Scabs, The Screws, The Static, Theoretical Girls, Tone Death, UT, Y Pants


No Wave continues to have a far-reaching impact on the American anti-culture music scene. In a foreword to the book No Wave, Weasel Walter wrote of the movement's ongoing influence:

"I began to express myself musically in a way that felt true to myself, constantly pushing the limits of idiom or genre and always screaming "Fuck You!" loudly in the process. It's how I felt then and I still feel it now. The ideals behind the (anti-) movement known as No Wave were found in many other archetypes before and just as many afterwards, but for a few years around the late 1970s, the concentration of those ideals reached a cohesive, white-hot focus."

In 2004 Scott Crary made a documentary, Kill Your Idols, about No Wave. In 2007–2008, three books on the scene were published: Soul Jazz's New York Noise, Marc Masters' No Wave , and Thurston Moore and Byron Coley's No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980.