x

Music

Japanese Avant-Garde Pioneer Composer Ichiyanagi Dies at 89

October 9, 2022

TOKYO — Avant-garde pianist and composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, who studied with John Cage and went on to lead Japan’s advances in experimental modern music, has died. He was 89.

Ichiyanagi, who was married to Yoko Ono before she married John Lennon, died Friday, according to the Kanagawa Arts Foundation, where Ichiyanagi had served as general artistic director. The cause of death was not given.

“We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to all those who loved him during his lifetime,” the foundation’s chairman, Kazumi Tamamura, said in a statement Saturday.

Ichiyanagi studied at The Juilliard School in New York and emerged a pioneer, using free-spirited compositional techniques that left much to chance, incorporating not only traditional Japanese elements and instruments but also electronic music.

He was known for collaborations that defied the boundaries of genres, working with Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham, as well as innovative Japanese artists like architect Kisho Kurokawa and poet-playwright Shuji Terayama, as well as with Ono, with whom he was married for several years starting in the mid-1950s.

“In my creation, I have been trying to let various elements, which have often been considered separately as contrast and opposite in music, coexist and penetrate each other,” Ichiyanagi once said in an artist statement.

Japanese traditional music inspired and emboldened him, he said, because it was not preoccupied with the usual definitions of music as “temporal art,” or what he called “divisions,” such as relative and absolute, or new and old.

Modern music was more about “substantial space, in order to restore the spiritual richness that music provides,” he said.

Among his well-known works for orchestra is his turbulently provocative “Berlin Renshi.” Renshi is a kind of Japanese collaborative poetry that is more open-ended free verse than older forms like “renku.”

In 1989, Ichiyanagi formed the Tokyo International Music Ensemble — The New Tradition (TIME), an orchestral group focused on traditional instruments and “shomyo,” a style of Buddhist chanting.

His music traveled freely across influences and cultures, transitioning seamlessly from minimalist avant-garde to Western opera.

Ichiyanagi toured around the world, premiering his compositions at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paris. The National Theater of Japan also commissioned him for several works.

He remained prolific over the years, producing Concerto for marimba and orchestra in 2013, and Piano Concerto No. 6 in 2016, which Ichiyanagi performed solo at a Tokyo festival.

Ichiyanagi received numerous awards, including the Alexander Gretchaninov Prize from Juilliard, L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the French Republic and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette and the Medal of Purple Ribbon from the Japanese government.

Born in Kobe to a musical family, Ichiyanagi showed promise as a composer at a young age. He won a major competition in Japan before moving to the U.S. as a teen, when such moves were still relatively rare in postwar Japan.

A private funeral is being held with family. A public ceremony in his honor is in the works, being arranged by his son, Japanese media reports said.

 

RELATED

Here's a collection curated by The Associated Press' entertainment journalists of what's arriving on TV, streaming services and music and video game platforms this week.

Top Stories

Columnists

A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

Video

Search Effort Intensifies after Indonesia Quake Killed 271

CIANJUR, Indonesia — More rescuers and volunteers were deployed Wednesday in devastated areas on Indonesia's main island of Java to search for the dead and missing from an earthquake that killed at least 271 people.

ATHENS - Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis paid a visit on Saturday to the Police Station of Kallithea, the southwestern suburb of Athens, which houses an Operational Office dealing with domestic violence of a network of 18 such centers incorporated in police stations.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — When officials unfurled a 25-foot rainbow flag in front of Colorado Springs City Hall this week, people gathered to mourn the victims of a mass shooting at a popular gay club couldn't help but reflect on how such a display of support would have been unthinkable just days earlier.

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — The Biden family's tradition of eating lunch, shopping and watching a Christmas tree lighting in downtown Nantucket on Friday became mostly about keeping the president's 2-year-old grandson from having a meltdown.

AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — Respect achieved.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.