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Toshi Ichiyanagi, a leading figure of the Japanese musical avant-garde and Yoko Ono’s first husband, died in Tokyo on 7 October.

Today I learned that the composer and pianist Toshi Ichiyanagi, who was at the forefront of post-war Japanese avant-garde music, died on 7 October in a Tokyo hospital at the age of 89. After training in Japan and winning first prize in the composition section of the Mainichi Music Competition (now the Japan Music Competition), he moved to the USA in 1954 where he participated in avant-garde activities with composer John Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham and married artist Yoko Ono in 1956, whom he divorced six years later as a result of his decision to return to Japan, while she wanted to remain in the United States.

Upon his return to Japan, Ichiyanagi became involved in the activities of the anti-art collective Neo-Dada Organizers, and introduced concepts such as Cage’s “aleatoric music” and the use of graphic notation to Japan. He was artistic director of the Kanagawa Arts Foundation, and maintained a vigorous creative activity well into his 80s; in fact, in 2015 he premiered his Symphony No. 9 “Diaspora”. His most representative works include the Piano Concerto No. 1 “Reminiscence of Spaces”, the Symphony “Berlin Renshi” and the operas Momo – based on the work of Michael Ende – and White Nights of Love.

In addition to the Otaka Prize, the Suntory Music Prize and the Mainichi Art Prize, he received the French Order of Arts and Culture in 1985, the Purple Ribbon Medal in 1999 and the Order of the Rising Sun in 2005.

© Photo downloaded from the website of Schott Music Group, the publisher representing Toshi Ichiyanagi.