Toshi Ichiyanagi (Japanese Avant-Garde Composer) Dies At 89

The musician, who was once married to Yoko Ono, was instrumental in advancing current experimental music in Japan.

Toshi Ichiyanagi, an avant-garde pianist and composer who trained under John Cage and helped Japan lead the world in experimental contemporary music, has passed away. He was 89.

According to the Kanagawa Arts Foundation, where Ichiyanagi had held the position of general creative director, Ichiyanagi, who was married to Yoko Ono before she married John Lennon, passed away on Friday (Oct. 7). It was not stated what caused the death.

Ichiyanagi was a pioneer who studied at The Juilliard School in New York and used experimental composing methods that included both traditional Japanese instruments and materials as well as electronic music.

He was renowned for his cross-genre collaborations, working with artists including Jasper Johns, Merce Cunningham, architect Kisho Kurokawa, poet-playwright Shuji Terayama, and Ono, with whom he was married for a number of years beginning in the mid-1950s.

According to him, contemporary music was more about "substantial space, to reestablish the spiritual richness that music brings."

Ichiyanagi established the Tokyo International Music Ensemble — The New Tradition (TIME) in 1989. This symphonic ensemble specialises in traditional instruments and "shomyo," a kind of Buddhist chanting.

Ichiyanagi gave world premieres of his pieces at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and Carnegie Hall in New York while on tour. He was also given many commissions by the Japanese National Theater.

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