Influential avant-garde composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, the first husband of Yoko Ono, has died at age 89. Like John Cage, with whom he studied in New York City in the 1950s, Ichiyanagi employed random chance as a compositional technique and combined traditional Japanese instruments, Western instruments, and electronic sound in his music. Founder of the Tokyo International Music Ensemble, Ichiyanagi also served as the longtime artistic director of the Kanagawa Arts Foundation. From the Associated Press:
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.