Toshi Ichiyanagi 1933-2022


The Edition Peters Group is saddened to learn of the death of Toshi Ichiyanagi, a key figure in music's global avant-garde beginning in the 1950s.

Born in Kobe in 1933, Ichiyanagi came to New York in 1954 with the intention of studying 12-tone technique at the Juilliard School, and went on to study with Aaron Copland at the Tanglewood Music Center. But the encounter with modernism that most influenced his music was his discovery of the music and philosophy of John Cage. The multidisciplinary artist Yoko Ono, then Ichiyanagi's wife, joined her husband in attending Cage's classes at the New School and then—upon Ichiyanagi's return to their home country in the early 1960s—in performing and presenting Cage's works on the American composer's first Japanese tour. Cage there premiered his conceptual work 0'00 (4' 33 No. 2) and dedicated it to the couple.

Under the influence of New York's experimental art and music scene, Ichiyanagi began to compose unconventional graphic scores, which Ichiyanagi designed with such elegance that several of his works have been collected and exhibited by Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art.

Back in Japan, he founded Orchestral Space—a cosmopolitan festival dedicated to the music of cutting-edge composers—alongside Seiji Ozawa and Toru Takemitsu, whose own musical trajectory as a composer Ichiyanagi had transformed before his studies in New York by introducing Takemitsu to the work of Olivier Messiaen.

Ichiyanagi leaves behind a legacy of works, such as Music for Electric Metronomes, that transcend the usual bounds of music as a discipline, creating scores that combine conceptual art, visual art, performance art, choreography and music on a single page. He continued to compose prolifically for decades until his death in Tokyo last week at the age of 89.

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