Japanese avant-garde composer Toshi Ichiyanagi has died at the age of 89

Avant-garde pianist and composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, who studied with John Cage and later spearheaded Japan’s advances in experimental modern music, has died. He was 89.

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

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

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

I tried to make different elements, which in music were often considered separately as contrast and opposition, coexist and permeate each otherToshi Ichiyanagi

Known for genre-bending collaborations, he worked with Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham, as well as innovative Japanese artists such as architect Kisho Kurokawa and poet-playwright Shuji Terayama, and Ono, to whom he was married, for a number of years beginning in the mid-1950s Years.

“In my creation, I have attempted to allow different elements, which in music are often viewed separately as contrast and opposition, to co-exist and permeate each other,” Ichiyanagi once said in an artist statement.

Traditional Japanese music inspired and encouraged him, he said, because it didn’t deal 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 is more about “essential space to restore the spiritual richness that music offers,” he said.

His well-known orchestral works include his turbulently provocative Berlin Renshi. Renshi is a type of Japanese collaborative poetry that contains more open verse than older forms such as renku.


Yoko Ono was married to Toshi Ichiyanagi in the 1950s (Ian West/PA)

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In 1989, Ichiyanagi founded Tokyo International Music Ensemble – The New Tradition (TIME), an orchestral group focused on traditional instruments and “Shomyo,” a Buddhist singing style.

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

Ichiyanagi has toured the world and premiered his compositions at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Theater des Champs-Elysees in Paris. The National Theater of Japan also commissioned him with several works.

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

Born into a musical family in Kobe, Ichiyanagi showed promising composers from an early age. He won a major competition in Japan before moving to the United States as a teenager when such moves were relatively rare in post-war Japan.

A private funeral is held with the family. A public ceremony in his honor is to follow, according to Japanese media reports.

https://www.independent.ie/style/celebrity/celebrity-news/japanese-avant-garde-composer-toshi-ichiyanagi-dies-at-89-42050635.html Japanese avant-garde composer Toshi Ichiyanagi has died at the age of 89

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