Toshi ICHIYANAGI (1933- )
Born in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture. Ichiyanagi began to learn the piano from a young age, studying with Koji Taku and Chieko Hara. He also studied composition with Kishio Hirao, Tomojiro Ikenouchi. Then he studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. After graduation, he met John Cage at a recital of David Tudor, and received great influence from the composer over his life. He also met some members of Fluxus including La Monte Young and George Maciunas. He returned to Japan in 1961 and held a concert at Sogetsu Art Center. He worked hard for John Cage ‘s visit to Japan in 1962, being instrumental for introducing Cage’s music to Japan. In 1966, Rockefeller Foundation invited him to the United States. Ichiyanagi participated in Crosstalk / Intermedia held in Tokyo in 1969. He also worked for various projects at the Osaka Expo in 1970. In recent years he has been working for exchanges with Finnish musicians. Currently he is also acting as music director of the TIME music ensemble that consists of traditional musical instruments and Buddhist chanting, and of Ensemble Origin that consists of restored ancient instruments. He has been quite active for a wide range of activities.
I. Early music education, Studying in America
II. Meeting John Cage, Music for Piano series
III. Fluxus versions?
IV. Connection with Fluxus
V. Returning to Japan, John Cage’s first tour in Japan
VI. Going back to the States
VII. Cross Talk/Intermedia, Expo ’70
VIII. Cage, Merce Cunningham Dance Company
IX. Finland, Field Music, Upcoming projectsI. Early music education, Studying in America
Kakinuma: Today, we are talking to Toshi Ichiyanagi. It’s September 21, 2016. The interviewers are myself, Toshie Kakinuma, and Nao Takeuchi. Thank you for this opportunity.
Ichiyanagi: My pleasure.
Kakinuma: I would like to ask you about your early childhood. You were born on February 4th in 1933 (Showa 8), in Kobe. Your father is cellist, Shinji Ichiyanagi and your mother Mitsuko, was teaching the piano at home.
Ichiyanagi: That’s about right. The war had already broken out when I was old enough to realize that; it was becoming more and more difficult to do things like practice music.
Kakinuma: Did you initially learn the piano from your mother, too?
Ichiyanagi: Yes. She had more than a dozen students coming to our house.
Kakinuma: How did you come to learn the piano with Paul Vinogradoff from Russia?
Ichiyanagi: I had different teachers over time – how did that happen? – someone introduced him to us, I think. I also studied with Koji Taku. My mother’s friend Mitsuko Uchida must have introduced Paul Vinogradoff but I cannot be sure.
Kakinuma: Mitsuko Uchida? [laughs] It’s the same name [as the well-known Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida].
Ichiyanagi: Yes, isn’t it, come to think of it, but she was way older so that cannot be right. She was my mother’s friend.
Kakinuma: She may have been the teacher of Koji Taku?
Ichiyanagi: I don’t think so. Mr. Taku was also a professor at Tokyo University of the Arts (Geidai), you know?
Kakinuma: Yes he was. So that means you studied with him after you moved to Tokyo?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, certainly. My parents moved to Tokyo when I was two.
Kakinuma: You were two years old when you moved to Tokyo. How did you become interested in composition?
Ichiyanagi: That happened after the war. For about three years during the war, it was too difficult to practice the piano. I had to evacuate from the city which was being air-raided almost everyday. We were constantly under the threat of being bombed any minute, so for more than three years, I could not touch the piano. After the war ended, we returned to Tokyo; school resumed in September and I sort of started playing the piano again. Luckily our piano didn’t get destroyed but really, everything was burned down and we had virtually nothing else left – no scores, nor anything else for studying music. So I just played it on my own in whatever the way and that turned my interest to music composition; it wasn’t like I started it with any clear ideas or plans.
Kakinuma: And then, you decided to study composition with a teacher? Like Kishio Hirao?
Ichiyanagi: That’s right.
Kakinuma: And Tomojirō Ikenouchi?
Ichiyanagi: When Mr. Hirao became sick and was hospitalized, he introduced Mr. Ikenouchi to us.
Kakinuma: He was teaching at Geidai back then.
Ichiyanagi: Yes. As you know, he was the teacher of (Sadao) Bekku, (Teizo) Matsumura, and Akira Miyoshi.
Kakinuma: You went to Aoyama Gakuin Senior High School.
Kakinuma: That’s when you won an award for your composition at The Music Competition of Japan.
Ichiyanagi: Yes, but that was really a self-taught composition.
Kakinuma: I don’t know if that’s true as you were studying with proper teachers. [laughs]
Ichiyanagi: But the teachers taught us more things like harmony and counterpoint than composition itself… Don’t they? It’s rather difficult to teach composition, isn’t it.
Kakinuma: Did you have any composers you liked back then?
Ichiyanagi: I was starting to find some. My father had been to France and brought home some records. They weren’t of the post-war time but from the pre-war period, for example, Poulenc and Honegger of Les Six – I liked those.
Kakinuma: You were fond of the French modernists.
Ichiyanagi: I was.
Kakinuma: Like Debussy?
Ichiyanagi: Um, I was more interested in Ravel than Debussy.
Kakinuma: You preferred Ravel. You then won second place with your Sonata for Violin the next year, and in the year after that again, but this time first place with a trio – that’s impressive.
Ichiyanagi: No, no, [laughs] it was just a coincidence.
Kakinuma: Was it around that time (Toru) Takemitsu came to your house? Were you neighbors?
Ichiyanagi: We happened to be. Our house was originally in Shibuya, too, but we were fortunate it didn’t get destroyed when everywhere, up to Aoyama, was burnt down to the ground. I had close friends from the elementary school and was looking forward to seeing them when school resumed in September but they weren’t there. Many of them lived around Aoyama area, so they had probably left or died as it was completely flattened. I searched for what had happened to them later but was not able to find out anything.
Kakinuma: And when all that was happening, Takemitsu lived near you.
Ichiyanagi: We too were forced out of Shibuya eventually, and settled in Shimokitazawa and Ikenoue, near where Ikebe is living now.
Kakinuma: The neighborhood of Shin’ichirō Ikebe?
Ichiyanagi: Near there. A couple of minutes from there.
Kakinuma: And Takemitsu was living in that neighborhood.
Ichiyanagi: Takemitsu was closer to Setagaya-Daita on the current Odakyu line.
Kakinuma: And then, he suddenly came by?
Ichiyanagi: He must have known (Teizō) Matsumura and (Kuniharu) Akiyama since a while, as they also lived along the Inokashira and Odakyu lines. So I presume he also heard about the competition. He came by right after I won the award at the first competition.
Kakinuma: He visited you right after the competition. I understand that he borrowed Messiaen’s score from you?
Ichiyanagi: He did. It was Messiaen’s Prelude.
Kakinuma: Was everyone into Messiaen at that time?
Ichiyanagi: Well, what happened was when my mother was young, she studied at Oberlin College in Ohio and she maintained some connections with her American friends even after the war. Americans were rather generous about things like that and when they learned that we were hurting for music, they offered to send her new scores, one of which was Messiaen’s. Messiaen was the most contemporary then. His score was on the piano when Takemitsu came. He must have been starving for new music too, because, really, no one had anything back then.
Kakinuma: And it was never returned to you?
Ichiyanagi: Never. [laughs]
Takeuchi: Backtracking a little, what kind of music was Sonata for Piano, which won you first place?
Ichiyanagi: What kind… it’s a bit difficult to describe, but well, it wasn’t that new.
Takeuchi: Like Neoclassical?
Ichiyanagi: It was more like French modernist.
Kakinuma: Like Ravel?
Ichiyanagi: Yeah, Ravel, and Poulenc who I’ve mentioned. Closer to them.
Takeuchi: Those scores you had access to back then gave you some stylistic direction?
Ichiyanagi: They probably did. I had started playing the piano again, but for that, it was mostly classical music.
Takeuchi: Did you practice those pieces from the scores?
Takeuchi: Did you also take piano lessons from Chieko Hara?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, for the last three years before going to the States.
Takeuchi: Didn’t you learn some modern music from her?
Ichiyanagi: I never learned new music from her directly. She was incredible though, more like Hiroko Nakamura for her time. She highly valued classical music, and told me to never neglect practicing Bach, for example. She had many, not LPs back then, but 45s, and would lend me those one after another without hesitation. I learned so much from them.
Kakinuma: Your father decided you should study music in the States rather than in Europe – why did you choose the University of Minnesota?
Ichiyanagi: I suppose it was because most of Europe was a battlefield then. We chose Minnesota as my mother’s friend was living in Minneapolis.
Kakinuma: You went to the University of Minnesota, not Oberlin College.
Ichiyanagi: That’s right.
Kakinuma: Why did you drop out?
Ichiyanagi: If I were to study in the States, I wanted to go to NY in the first place. And the University of Minnesota helped me with everything needed to transfer – like arranging for the entrance exam or obtaining a scholarship, and so on.
Kakinuma: So you switched to Juilliard, or rather, you started there again from the beginning.
Ichiyanagi: Yes, that’s correct.
Kakinuma: I understand that you studied under (Vincent Ludwig) Persichetti at Juilliard?
Ichiyanagi: I passed exams for both piano and composition but had to choose one. So that’s when I really began focusing on composition. I studied piano with Beveridge Webster – his son and his wife now come to Japan to play concerts once in a while – their father was my teacher.
Kakinuma: And you studied composition under Persichetti.
Ichiyanagi: Yes, but I didn’t choose him.
Kakinuma: He wasn’t your choice?
Ichiyanagi: No, we couldn’t pick our teacher.
Kakinuma: While at Juilliard, you won the Elizabeth Coolidge Award (1955) with Sonata, as well as a few other awards. Philip Corner told me that his first wife was also at Juilliard then and met you. Do you remember that?
Ichiyanagi: What year was it?
Kakinuma: I believe ’54 or ’55. She was a cellist.
Ichiyanagi: A cellist?
Kakinuma: Yes, a cellist at Juilliard. He said in our interview that she had met you, so I assumed you knew her?
Ichiyanagi: That, I don’t remember, but what was grateful at Juilliard was they would hire me as a piano accompanist for violin, cello, or singing classes. They had students coming all day to practice, and I would play so many sonatas and concertos for them – it was such a learning opportunity for me.
Kakinuma: Ah, maybe that’s it; you could have played for her.
Ichiyanagi: She may have been one of them, but I’m afraid I don’t remember her. I played for so many students.
Kakinuma: I don’t know her name either, I’m sorry. He just said his “first wife”. [laughs]
Ichiyanagi: I see, so now he has the second wife, or more?
Kakinuma: I don’t know. His current wife is a dancer, called Phoebe.
Ichiyanagi: Oh, okay, so she’s not the one in question, naturally.
Kakinuma: No, no, it was his first wife. Anyway, didn’t you also leave Juilliard halfway?
Ichiyanagi: No, I stayed for four years.
Kakinuma: Did you graduate?
Ichiyanagi: I did.
Kakinuma: I thought you said somewhere that you “got tired of Juilliard”.
Ichiyanagi: I disliked it as soon as I started. But I didn’t quit though. As I was a foreign student with a student visa, I needed to be enrolled somewhere.
Kakinuma: That’s true. Then, what happened after you finally graduated? Were you thinking of going back to Japan?
Ichiyanagi: I was. I’ve talked about this with many people but anyway, I wanted to study twelve-tone music while at Juilliard but there was no one there who could teach that. Meanwhile, my piano teacher Webster would bring me scores of Bartók to practice one after another, so I learned way more from that. I didn’t find Juilliard that interesting, at least for studying composition.
Kakinuma: You had more teachers outside the school then?
Ichiyanagi: Not teachers per se but I was fortunate to meet a variety of composers, including those who came from Europe at the time.
Kakinuma: Like (Luigi) Dallapiccola?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, I went to meet him too.
Kakinuma: Did you learn twelve-tone composition from Dallapiccola?
Ichiyanagi: It’s not that I leaned it from him as such; I was just going to Queen’s College where he and his colleagues were teaching. It was more like he and his work inspired me.
Kakinuma: You also studied under many other musicians, right?
Ichiyanagi: It’s probably more accurate to say that I got to know them than I studied under them.
Kakinuma: What about Edgard Varèse? You got to know him as well?
Ichiyanagi: He was already quite old by then but when I saw him, he didn’t look ill or anything. I really met him only once when Cage brought him. It was so great that Cage would bring and introduce these people to someone like me, an unknown young man from the East. I spent a lot of time with Cage and his friends, like Varèse or Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp was around for a while.
Kakinuma: And (Goffredo) Petrassi, too?
Ichiyanagi: Petrassi came to Tanglewood near Boston to teach summer courses. That’s where I met him.
Kakinuma: Was it ’53 or…?
Ichiyanagi: That was the summer of ’55. Schools in the States begin in September, and it was ’54 I switched to Juilliard. My first teacher at Tanglewood was (Aaron) Copland.
Kakinuma: That was in ’53, right?
Ichiyanagi: That’s correct. I think it was after that, that I had Petrassi.
Kakinuma: You also studied with Lukas Foss?
Ichiyanagi: Lukas Foss came too.
Kakinuma: You “met” him…?
Ichiyanagi: He actually taught me.
Kakinuma: What did he teach you?
Ichiyanagi: I was more impressed by his piano performance than his composition.
Kakinuma: While at Tanglewood. How about Boris Blacher?
Ichiyanagi: I met Blacher both in Tanglewood and New York, as most foreigners would end up in New York after finishing Tanglewood. I was also living there for a while, and it was Stefan Wolpe who looked after me most during that time.
Kakinuma: What did you learn from Wolpe?
Ichiyanagi: Wolpe helped me with everything as my apartment was close to his place. He was the first American twelve-tone composer I got to know of.
II. Meeting John Cage, Music for Piano series
Kakinuma: That’s where you met (David) Tudor?
Ichiyanagi: That’s correct.
Kakinuma: Did you perform together?
Ichiyanagi: We did. There was a concert of Wolpe’s music and we played Enactment for Three Pianos on Tudor’s suggestion.
Kakinuma: Three pianists played his piece for three pianos.
Ichiyanagi: There was another young American performer but I cannot remember his name.
Kakinuma: Did you play a concert at Carnegie Hall after that?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, I did.
Kakinuma: Was it a recital?
Ichiyanagi: It was a recital but also an opportunity to present my own music, just before I returned to Japan.
Kakinuma: Was it in 1960?
Ichiyanagi: It was in ’61.
Kakinuma: ’61 – that was the year you came back to Japan.
Ichiyanagi: Yes, it was. I arrived in the summer, so the concert was before that.
Kakinuma: Was it all your own work you performed?
Ichiyanagi: No, besides Music for Piano No. 2 and No. 7, I also played works by Cage, Wolpe, Feldman, and Wolff. I think I played Earle Brown, too.
Kakinuma: I’m sorry to go back and forth, but you played with Tudor, and then went to his concert at Village Vanguard?
Ichiyanagi: That was his own recital so we didn’t perform together there.
Kakinuma: But Tudor played Cage’s work in that recital, didn’t he?
Ichiyanagi: Right, he did. It was the premier performance of Winter Music.
Kakinuma: Was Cage there too?
Ichiyanagi: He was.
Kakinuma: And that was your first meeting with him.
Ichiyanagi: Yes, well, we must have crossed-paths somewhere before, but officially, yes, that was the first time.
Kakinuma: That you two introduced each other.
Kakinuma: He then invited you to his place?
Ichiyanagi: Right away. He must have been curious, as I was an Asian composer.
Kakinuma: Am I right that you brought your Music for Piano No. 1 on that visit?
Ichiyanagi: That’s right; I whipped it up overnight.
Kakinuma: Can you tell us more about it?
Ichiyanagi: It was too good to be true. [laughs] Well, I didn’t know much about his music; there weren’t even scores released yet. I knew Cage’s music was conceptually and structurally totally different from European contemporary music, so I tried to explore that and wrote Music for Piano No. 1, a “Cagesque” piece. I was also hitting a wall with twelve-tone composition myself.
Kakinuma: That’s this one, is it?
Ichiyanagi: Ah, ha ha ha. Yes it is, this is it. I’ve lost this somewhere.
Kakinuma: This was in Ongaku Geijutsu (music magazine) and I photocopied it. Here, there are eleven notes and no C. So I suspect that you were conscious of twelve-tone. And I suppose this was “using indeterminacy in composition”, no?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, perhaps, but I wasn’t thinking so clearly about that.
Kakinuma: And this part – is the performer supposed to interpret the score and create their own notations?
Ichiyanagi: Well, No. 1 wasn’t that graphical yet. I think there were hardly any graphical elements or my own functions in this piece. That all started in No. 2.
Kakinuma: Okay, I get it.
Ichiyanagi: Hiroaki Ooi often plays this now.
Kakinuma: So does Takuji Kawai.
Takeuchi: The recording has been released by Omega Point, hasn’t it. I have something I wanted to confirm with you about what happened around this time. I read it in an article Akimichi Takeda wrote in 1983, that when you were in America, you attempted to combine twelve-tone system and indeterminacy, and consequently wrote Music for Piano No. 1 and Music for Piano No. 2 – is this true?
Ichiyanagi: I don’t think that’s so accurate.
Takeuchi: Is it not? What would you say you were doing then?
Ichiyanagi: Where did you read that?
Takeuchi: In this magazine. Akimichi Takeda was in charge of this section and wrote it.
Kakinuma: This doesn’t really look like twelve-tone technique…
Ichiyanagi: I agree.
Kakinuma: That’s why we were wondering about his commentary.
Ichiyanagi: Oh, I see. Well, I did write a few twelve-tone scores leading up to these.
Takeuchi: Do you think he could have mixed up some information?
Ichiyanagi: He might have.
Takeuchi: OK, thank you. I just wanted to clarify that. So could we say that your style of composition completely changed, after you wrote the first piece in the Music for Piano series? Did you not employ the twelve-tone technique later, particularly in the sixties?
Ichiyanagi: I don’t think so. I might have written some graphic-notations that may have resembled the twelve-tone style, but they weren’t based on it.
Takeuchi: You weren’t thinking of that.
Ichiyanagi: No, I was rather trying to move on to a new direction.
Kakinuma: Do you realize that you have cited different years for your [first] visit to Cage’s house in different interviews?
Ichiyanagi: Have I, really?
Kakinuma: In this book you’ve recently published (Toshi Ichiyanagi Gendai Ongaku wo Koete [Beyond Contemporary Music]), you mentioned 1957, but you’ve also said ’58 or ’59 in others.
Ichiyanagi: It was definitely not ’59.
Kakinuma: It wasn’t? But the program note in the piano suite (Takuji) Kawai released on Omega Point cites it as ’59.
Ichiyanagi: Did I write that?
Kakinuma: It’s in the program note. Here’s (the score of) No. 1 – it reads, 1959, “Composed in September in New York”.
Ichiyanagi: In September ’59…
Kakinuma: But this one says ’57. [laughs]
Ichiyanagi: The year I visited Cage was?
Kakinuma: Yes. You said you first visited him in ’57, and you wrote the piece the night before…
Ichiyanagi: I’m sorry, but I may be a little confused about that. I do think it was ’58 that Tudor played Winter Music for the first time at his recital at Village Vanguard.
Kakinuma: This one says it was ’57, and this one in ’59, so we wondered which was right. [laughs]
Ichiyanagi: Hmm… But it was definitely not ’59.
Kakinuma: Not ’59, then, was it ’58? So this is wrong, isn’t it?
Ichiyanagi: Well, it must be then. [laughs]
Takeuchi: This one in Ongaku Geijutsu says that Music for Piano No. 1 was composed in September 1959 in New York. So I imagine Takuji Kawai might have written his program note based on this information, and therefore, this could be a misprint, too.
Kakinuma: Not a misprint, but wrong information.
Ichiyanagi: Well, wait, it may have been… or, I think it perhaps was… I mean, I did visit Cage the next day or the day after our first meeting.
Kakinuma: That means it was in the same year.
Ichiyanagi: Certainly. It was the same year that I surely wrote a Cage-like piece, an equivalent to No. 1, but I probably revised it later.
Kakinuma: Ah! So is it possible that you officially completed it in ’59?
Ichiyanagi: Could be. Because I didn’t have much time when I initially wrote it.
Kakinuma: You composed it the night before your visit.
Ichiyanagi: It was an all-nighter; my very first “indeterminacy” piece.
Kakinuma: Is this incorrect, too? “Composed in September”?
Ichiyanagi: Well, I wrote No 2 in December, December of ’59. That’s for sure.
Takeuchi: I see.
Ichiyanagi: So it could have been September as I wrote No. 1 before that.
Kakinuma: Could it be that you also composed No. 2 in ’58 then?
Ichiyanagi: No, I wrote No. 2 in ’59. Tudor asked me in the fall of ’59 to compose a new piece for his coming recital in December.
Kakinuma: So, No. 2 was composed in ’59.
Ichiyanagi: It was in December ’59 and Tudor premiered it…
Kakinuma: Tudor was the first to perform No. 2?
Ichiyanagi: He played it as soon as I finished it.
Kakinuma: So it was ’58 that you visited Cage for the first time?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, ’58.
Kakinuma: And not ’57.
Ichiyanagi: I suppose that’s correct.
Kakinuma: There’s something else we are a little confused about.
Ichiyanagi: I’m sorry. [laughs]
III. Fluxus Version?
Kakinuma: I believe that Music for Piano No. 2 and Piano Piece No. 4 are the same piece, as they share the same graphic score – is this correct?
Ichiyanagi: Not at all, they are not the same. Tudor first performed No. 4 in ’62 when he came to Japan.
Kakinuma: Well, it’s the same score – here, printed in Fluxus Codex. (Hendricks, Jon. ed. 1988. Fluxus Codex. Detroit: The Gilert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection)
Ichiyanagi: In where?
Kakinuma: In Fluxus Codex.
Ichiyanagi: You really cannot trust Fluxus. They and Peters had a big falling out over the licensing of some scores that Fluxus insisted were theirs. They did belong to Peters though.
Kakinuma: This score in here, says Piano Piece No. 4.
Ichiyanagi: That’s not right.
Kakinuma: It isn’t? Is this Music for Piano No. 2, then?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, it is Music for Piano No. 2. It’s part of Peters’ catalogue even now.
Ichiyanagi: This is a bit off topic but Fluxus was sometimes like, “My thing is mine, and your thing is also mine”. Their performers often ignored the scores and played them as they wanted; that’s what Fluxus was all about.
Kakinuma: Speaking of that, (George) Maciunas said in here that he wanted to produce your “Complete Works” but couldn’t due to the copyright dispute with Peters. Which pieces were supposed be in that?
Ichiyanagi: I don’t know anything about this.
Kakinuma: You don’t? Really? This here says “Complete Works” by Toshi Ichiyanagi.
Ichiyanagi: Maciunas despised American companies. The reason Cage fell out with Fluxus is because they tried to use his work licensed to Peters without their permission. They’d just go ahead and do whatever they wanted to do; never mind others, you know. [laughs] Peters held the copyright so that might have stopped them from releasing it.
Kakinuma: Right, that’s why they couldn’t release it, as they didn’t have the copyright.
Ichiyanagi: Yeah, but they probably released it somewhere else, say, somewhere in Europe.
Kakinuma: Also related to that, your work was in the “Fluxus kit 2”, which was given away to the audience who came to the Fluxus Festival at Gallery 360°. It is Piano Piece No. 5, but “Fluxus version”. After some research, I found out that there are something like three different versions of it. Which one is the authentic one?
Ichiyanagi: Well, I had always numbered my compositions up to Music for Piano No. 7, between around ’60 and ’61. When I came back to Japan in ’61, or maybe a bit later, Yūji Takahashi released his performance of No. 5 from Columbia Records. Tudor also played No. 4 and No. 5 several times, and I myself performed No. 4, No. 6, and No. 7 a few times, in Osaka, at Sogetsu (Hall), and on TV.
Kakinuma: These are all different versions.
Kakinuma: This is the Fluxus Preview Review* [from Gallery 360°], which lists it as “Fluxus Variation for no performer”. (* Maciunas, George, et al. 1963. Fluxus Preview Review. (The Japanese version was released by Gallery 360° in 2016)
Ichiyanagi: See, this is what I mean, they just make these up.
Kakinuma: I see…
Ichiyanagi: I didn’t know they had printed this. I get why Cage didn’t like Fluxus.
Kakinuma: In Ken Friedman’s The （Fluxus） Performance Workbook,* he lists the piece as Music for Piano No. 5, “Fluxvariation”. * http://www.deluxxe.com/beat/fluxusworkbook.pdf
Ichiyanagi: It could be that someone performed it, and they described it as a “variation”.
Kakinuma: So you didn’t compose this.
Ichiyanagi: No not me, I don’t even know this.
Kakinuma: Do you happen to know if this was ever performed? The one where the performer throws darts into the back of the upright piano?
Ichiyanagi: No one could interpret the scores of Music for Piano No. 2 and No. 5 like that. I would guess that the performer didn’t even read the score; he must have just improvised it from the name of the piece.
Kakinuma: They even have the actual score in Fluxus Codex right here.
Ichiyanagi: But I never wrote an indication in it to throw darts.
Kakinuma: This score of Piano Piece No. 5 in here has an instruction to throw darts according to the score indications.
Ichiyanagi: Well, they must have added it.
Kakinuma: It says: “Toshi ICHIYANAGI Piano Piece No. 5, Copyright: Fluxus.”
Ichiyanagi: See, it even goes beyond copyright. As I said, No. 1 through No. 7 are all licensed to Peters.
Kakinuma: So this is not what you composed.
Ichiyanagi: No, it isn’t. Mine is what Tudor and Yuji Takahashi have performed.
Kakinuma: Really, so this one is different from that?
Ichiyanagi: It surely is.
Kakinuma: This says “throw darts”, or piano, or pianissimo and so on…
Ichiyanagi: You know, the score itself is my Music for Piano No. 5, but it looks like they have arranged it in whatever the way.
Ichiyanagi: I mean, they have rearranged it in the way they wanted.
Kakinuma: They revised your original and made it a variation.
Ichiyanagi: You’re right. Please listen to Yuji Takahashi’s performance. Ooi has also played my original version a number of times lately.
Kakinuma: Did Yuji Takahashi debut this piece?
Ichiyanagi: In Japan, he did. Tudor premiered it in the States.
Kakinuma: He threw darts?
Ichiyanagi: No, it has nothing to do with darts.
Kakinuma: Okay, no darts. [laughs] He didn’t play the dart version?
Ichiyanagi: I don’t think so. Although I never said, “Do not throw darts into the piano,” either.
Kakinuma: You think Maciunas added the darts?
Ichiyanagi: Oh, most likely.
Kakinuma: Maciunas wrote instructions like, “Ignore the dynamic marks” for the performances in Europe.
Ichiyanagi: I can see that. I put detailed dynamic marks in a special format in my original.
Kakinuma: He seems to have revised it to: “You can just throw darts.”
Ichiyanagi: I did hear about the darts but much later.
Kakinuma: You heard it after they had already done it.
Ichiyanagi: Yes, just a story.
Takeuchi: After the fact.
Ichiyanagi: I’m not even sure if that really happened or who performed it or who gave the directions – I have no idea. But when things like that come out publicly, it’s a big headache for Peters. For me too, of course.
Kakinuma: I’m sure.
Ichiyanagi: It’s too complicated, you know. The president of Peters died in a car accident in the early sixties so his wife took it over. She and his secretary ran the business but it started going down. As far as I remember, Peters owned the whole five-story building on 27th or 28th Street and Park Avenue but when I visited them later, they occupied just one floor. I imagine his wife went through a really hard time. And when I returned again after that, they weren’t even in New York anymore but had moved to New Jersey. I have a feeling that as they lost clout as a publisher, all kinds of troubles came about.
IV. Connection with Fluxus
Kakinuma: Here’s something else about Maciunas – he ran AG gallery where he organized concerts and events, and I read somewhere that you performed in one of those as well. What did you do?
Ichiyanagi: I did La Monte Young’s work.
Kakinuma: Did Young organize the performance?
Ichiyanagi: It wasn’t like a performance per se, but just his composition. Could we call it a composition? It was mostly just instructions or something like that.
Kakinuma: You mean you played that?
Kakinuma: You didn’t play your own music.
Ichiyanagi: No, not at AG gallery.
Kakinuma: Oh, I see. They couldn’t stay open too long anyway.
Ichiyanagi: That’s right.
Kakinuma: I also read that Yoko Ono had a loft on Chambers Street and did similar events with similar lineups of performers, like La Monte Young himself.
Ichiyanagi: He must have been involved in both.
Kakinuma: They both organized these events – were they any different?
Ichiyanagi: Oh completely, the atmosphere, the surroundings… You see, AG gallery was on Madison Avenue, which was rather highbrow in New York. Chamber Street was right downtown.
Kakinuma: So Yoko Ono started having concerts in her loft in December 1960; La Monte Young came up with the lineups and the first one was Terry Jennings’.
Ichiyanagi: It might have been.
Kakinuma: I understand that you also played one – what did you do?
Ichiyanagi: Let me see… I think I just played piano music. There was no budget as such so they just asked me to volunteer basically.
Kakinuma: Was there a piano in the loft?
Ichiyanagi: It was cheap to rent a piano in New York.
Kakinuma: So you played your own scores.
Ichiyanagi: Something like that.
Kakinuma: And they were Music for Piano No. 1, No. 2, No. 3…
Ichiyanagi: Not all of them but only a couple from the series.
Kakinuma: How did La Monte Young start to get involved?
Ichiyanagi: With me?
Kakinuma: In the events on Chamber Street…
Ichiyanagi: That’s because he also lived nearby.
Kakinuma: I see, so they would hang out and come up with ideas?
Ichiyanagi: Right. Philip Corner was in the neighborhood, too.
Kakinuma: But Philip Corner said he wasn’t invited to perform.
Ichiyanagi: Oh, is that right? Probably. La Monte was pretty selective about which composers and performers he wanted.
Kakinuma: Did you see others perform in that series?
Ichiyanagi: I liked Terry Jennings for example; he was not known at all, but was like a predecessor of Morton (Feldman). Or maybe he came after Morton in fact? Anyway, his composition was really transparent and deep – so well-written.
Kakinuma: He was influenced by La Monte Young, wasn’t he?
Ichiyanagi: Most likely.
Kakinuma: Rather minimalist.
Ichiyanagi: Right. His piece was like a string quartet, but I also saw someone else play – it was almost like, how can I say, as though the performer would break the piano.
Kakinuma: Were they breaking the piano?
Ichiyanagi: They had those types of people as well. It wasn’t like it was properly managed.
Kakinuma: You know Fluxus had smashed the piano in Wiesbaden, right? So they were already trying to do that kind of thing even before Wiesbaden?
Ichiyanagi: Perhaps. Although I don’t really know how it was like in Wiesbaden, the piano on Chamber Street was a rental so it would have been bad news if they had really smashed it. [laughs]
Kakinuma: That wouldn’t have been good.
Ichiyanagi: Not at all.
Kakinuma: That’s why they didn’t do it.
Ichiyanagi: Well, they almost did. [laughs]
Kakinuma: Almost? [laughs] Did you witness that?
Ichiyanagi: I did. It was unbelievable. They’d open the piano lid and from here – what was it, I can’t remember, but something really big, like some construction material – they’d throw that in and then roll it down a piece of lumber out of the piano.
Kakinuma: Was it an upright piano?
Ichiyanagi: No, it was a grand piano.
Kakinuma: A grand piano! My goodness!
Ichiyanagi: It was Dick Higgins who did that.
Kakinuma: I’ve never seen the documentation of that.
Ichiyanagi: Is that so? I think it should be out there somewhere, as it was a rather shocking event.
Kakinuma: You think it’s been documented.
Ichiyanagi: I would think so. But it was terrible as music. They asked them to stop it, as the piano was also a rental, right?
Kakinuma: I can imagine.
Ichiyanagi: It was rather chaotic. As I said, AG gallery was uptown, or rather, midtown, which was a prime location, but Fluxus were complete radicals, and that was the biggest difference from the Avant-Garde, which Cage was, so he didn’t like them.
Kakinuma: Cage wasn’t keen on their radical approach.
Ichiyanagi: Their radicalism went way beyond music, including politics. The reason why AG had a short life was because Maciunas mismanaged it. The location was ideal but he wouldn’t pay the rent, electricity, gas, nothing. So after a few months, there was no power there. When I performed La Monte Young’s piece, it was… February I think. It’s pretty cold in February in New York, you know. They had no power so it got really dark in the evening. You see, La Monte’s piece is really long. Imagine, I played it for three hours non-stop. [laughs]
Kakinuma: I know, and you performed it under such conditions?
Ichiyanagi: Yes I did, but barely.
Kakinuma: Oh no, that must have been arduous!
Ichiyanagi: So I said to myself, “This is good enough.”
Kakinuma: You called the shots. But you did play the piece for three hours?
Ichiyanagi: I said, “I won’t follow your instructions,” and La Monte said, “That’s alright.” He wanted to hear the shō (Japanese mouth organ) in it. It makes sounds in any which way it’s played. He wanted the fifth played on the shō for three hours straight, and probably thought I might have one just because I’m Japanese. You couldn’t find shō yet in New York back then.
Kakinuma: Was there an audience?
Ichiyanagi: There were two people at least.
Kakinuma: Two. Sitting in the cold. [laughs]
Ichiyanagi: I know. Anyway, I played the violin instead. The fifth on the violin.
Kakinuma: For three hours?
Ichiyanagi: Pretty much. He was quite strict about things like that. It was like a kind of discipline.
Kakinuma: Is it also true that Maciunas would stage “accidents”?
Ichiyanagi: Oh that, yes, it’s true.
Kakinuma: He would purposely get hit by a car?
Ichiyanagi: He used to say “I’d choose a lifetime of compensation over a leg.” He was seriously reckless. He’d step forward before the light changes, trying to get the money. He never lost his leg though, after all.
Kakinuma: He was really doing things like that.
Ichiyanagi: That’s why some of us couldn’t quite go along with him.
Kakinuma: Of course not. [laughs]
Ichiyanagi: Cage couldn’t agree with that type of thing either. But, well, it might have been Maciunas’ critique of American society.
Kakinuma: Do you think that made people shy away from him?
Ichiyanagi: That could be. It was a bit too much even for the openness and humor of Americans. But you couldn’t hate Maciunas. He suffered from severe asthma too.
Kakinuma: I believe Maciunas organized Musica Antiqua et Nova series at the time.
Ichiyanagi: It might have had a name like that but I don’t remember.
Kakinuma: I also heard he had concerts featuring Henry Flynt, Walter de Maria, and Ray Johnson?
Ichiyanagi: I knew they were doing that but I didn’t actually see those. Instead, I’d go see George Brecht, or Alan Kaprow’s Happenings, which were independent from Maciunas or Cage.
Kakinuma: How were Kaprow’s Happenings?
Ichiyanagi: Kaprow’s Happenings took place at a proper gallery. I remember they would use things like car tires, but it was quite different from Fluxus; I mean, more considered but extremely Avant-Garde.
Kakinuma: Alan Kaprow was a little earlier than Fluxus, wasn’t he?
Ichiyanagi: I think you’re right.
Kakinuma: You composed a piece titled IBM for Merce Cunningham around 1960, right? There’s also another piece called just IBM?
Ichiyanagi: No, there’s only one IBM. They are the same piece.
Kakinuma: Oh, they are?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, but I might have added “for Merce Cunningham” to dedicate it to him later.
V. Returning to Japan, John Cage’s first tour in Japan
Kakinuma: I understand that you had a performance of IBM for Happening after you returned to Japan?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, it was more like an incident than a performance, so I named it to clarify that for the Japanese audience.
Kakinuma: I see. And what made you decide to go back to Japan in ’61?
Ichiyanagi: What happened was at the beginning of ’61, (Toshiro) Mayuzumi came to New York to attend a modern ballet that he had written the music for. He stayed in New York for about two months then, and told me that [his] Institute for Music of the 20th Century was planning a festival of American music in that summer. So officially, I decided to go back on their invitation to participate in their festival.
Kakinuma: They proposed, “Why don’t you come back and work with us?”
Ichiyanagi: They asked me to be in charge of the entire programming for this American music festival, including the selection of my own music.
Kakinuma: What lineup did you come up with?
Ichiyanagi: I programmed Christian Wolff’s piece for prepared piano, and – I forget the title – Earle Brown’s duet for cello and piano.
Kakinuma: That’s right.
Ichiyanagi: And Stefan Wolpe’s Form, and a piece by Feldman.
Kakinuma: Did you play some pieces yourself, too?
Ichiyanagi: Yes. I did the simultaneous performance of Music for Piano No. 4, No. 6, and For Strings. And, Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra.
Kakinuma: Concert, as well.
Takeuchi: Mayuzumi conducted it, didn’t he?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, he did.
Kakinuma: You also had a concert at Sougetsu Hall?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, that was a performance of my own compositions.
Kakinuma: I believe that IBM for Happening was on the program?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, I had Group Ongaku and all the composers to perform in it – Mayuzumi, Takemitsu, Takahashi and so on.
Kakinuma: Right, as if to celebrate your return.
Ichiyanagi: Something like that.
Kakinuma: Do you recall that Yasunao Tone smashed a pot with a hammer and ate a piece in that performance?
Ichiyanagi: No, I don’t. Stories get exaggerated, don’t they?
Kakinuma: He mentioned it in a similar oral history interview. He said that when he learned that Nam June Paik had eaten a piano pedal, he felt compelled to do something to match it. You didn’t know this? Tone himself said so.
Ichiyanagi: I’ve pointed this out in the past but my concert actually took place before Nam June Paik’s.
Kakinuma: Did it, really? Then Tone must be mistaken. It’s just that he claimed he did it after hearing about what Paik had done, but that’s not correct.
Ichiyanagi: No, because that happened after mine.
Takeuchi: At this Sougetsu concert in November ’61, you had some pieces performed in ensembles with traditional Japanese instruments. Music for Piano No. 2 was also in the program where you played the piano yourself, along with the Shakuhachi* (*Japanese end-blown flute) player Shizuo Aoki. What brought this arrangement?
Ichiyanagi: Well, while I was still in the States, I gave various lectures on Japanese music. To tell you the truth, that was the first time I listened to the shakuhachi live.
Takeuchi: Oh, is that right?
Ichiyanagi: I was so impressed that I wanted to hear it over top of my piano music. It was on a whim, but they went really well together when performed simultaneously.
Takeuchi: So there was no score specifically written for the shakuhachi?
Ichiyanagi: No, because it was one of the shakuhachi Honkyoku* (*original classic shakuhachi music) that we played.
Takeuchi: You two played together a classical shakuhachi piece?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, it was Shika no Tōne. Even if from the old period, Japanese traditional music conveys something quite new and original that resonates with the Western Avant-Garde, you know.
Takeuchi: That’s a famous piece, isn’t it. Another question I have is, you also presented your KAIKI (recurrence) at that concert, which I believe was a premier performance. Tone played the Kagurabue (Japanese transverse flute) and the flute, so it was again an ensemble of Japanese and Western instruments. Would you say that the lectures you gave on Japanese traditional music in New York had a prominent influence over your compositions around this period?
Ichiyanagi: To an extent. We also had Mayumi Miyata’s teacher, (Tadamaro) Ōno, play the shō in that piece. What is beautiful about the pitch of Japanese traditional instruments is that it’s about a semitone off the Western scale.
Takeuchi: Right, that’s true. The list of performers shows Tadamaro Ōno as the shō player, and you played the koto – is this correct?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, that’s right, but it’s an over-statement that I played the koto – it was more like I played with it.
Kakinuma: Prior to Cage’s visit to Japan in ’62, you played a duo concert with Kenji Kobayashi, a recording of which has recently been released on CD. Then in the fall, Cage arrives. In retrospect, did this so-called “Cage shock” have a huge impact? Could you tell us what it was like?
Ichiyanagi: There were many elements to that – he did not use staff notation, nor differentiate music and noise; he did not “express himself”, he used graphic notation, and so on. But the actual scores he performed during his tour were rather calm and did not really represent these “shock” elements. His Concert, for example, contained a wider range of functions, but the main program on that tour was Atlas Eclipticalis he composed in ’61. Tudor, Cage himself, and a Japanese musician performed Atlas in the recital hall at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. Also, mainly Cage and Tudor as a duo, did performances using electronics at Sogetsu Hall, which were always full.
Kakinuma: Cage visited Kyoto on that occasion – did you go with him?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, as he also performed at Kyoto Kaikan.
Kakinuma: Did he visit Daisetsu Suzuki on that trip, or was it his second visit to Japan?
Ichiyanagi: It was on the first trip. Cage really wanted to meet Daisetsu. Daisetsu Suzuki passed away in 1966.
Kakinuma: Then in the following year, 1963, Fluxus released Anthology, which included your electronic metronome piece. Did you have any correspondence about it or Maciunas just put it in without asking you again?
Ichiyanagi: I had never contacted Fluxus myself.
Kakinuma: Then it was his own decision?
Kakinuma: I’ve also read somewhere that Maciunas wanted to tour the Fluxus Festival to New York, London, and Tokyo, and asked you to be the organizer of the Tokyo one. Didn’t it work out?
Ichiyanagi: He never contacted me about that either. Maybe he couldn’t carry out all these things he wanted to do due to his illness.
Kakinuma: He didn’t contact you.
Ichiyanagi: I don’t recall that. Even if he did, I was too busy to be involved in other things. Since my return in ’61, I had been collaborating with (Takehisa) Kosugi, or Kenji Kobayashi, and had formed a group called New Direction. Cage came in ’62, and in ’63, I organized another festival of The Institute for Music of the 20th Century in Kyoto as one of the members this time. Then in ’64, we had the entire Merce Cunningham Dance Company come to tour in Japan.
Kakinuma: He said it was planned for January ’64.
Ichiyanagi: Really. [laughs]
Kakinuma: You didn’t know this?
Ichiyanagi: No, I didn’t
Takeuchi: I would like to ask you something related to this period. In 1963, you participated in a round-table discussion titled “The International Avant-Garde and Music”, along with Nam June Paik, Isamu Kurita, Sou Sakon, and Yūji Takahashi, moderated by Makoto Moroi. It was published in the August and September issues of Ongaku Geijutsu. You stated in it that you actually wanted to introduce Fluxus first, before introducing Cage. Were you considering to bring Fluxus to Japan at one point?
Ichiyanagi: If I was, that’s because Nam June Paik was quite into Fluxus, and I was thinking about their potential as a post-Cage phenomenon. Paik came into the scene right when Sogetsu Hall and Sogetsu Art Center were most vibrant as hubs of excitement. But that’s about it.
Takeuchi: So after all, Fluxus didn’t get…
Ichiyanagi: I wasn’t really engaged with Fluxus by then as I had had unpleasant experiences through the incidents involving Peters or Cage.
Takeuchi: So you never had an opportunity to introduce Fluxus in Japan?
Ichiyanagi: No I didn’t, as I wasn’t close to them.
Takeuchi: Thank you very much. That answers to my question.
VI. Going back to the States
Kakinuma: In 1966, you went back to America on an invitation from the Rockefeller Foundation, and stayed in New York for about six months?
Ichiyanagi: Longer than that, about a year.
Kakinuma: I believe that you met Tadanori Yokoo back then. He currently writes a column in the Tokyo Shinbun* (*newspaper), and you appear in it from time to time. [laughs] I subscribe to it now.
Ichiyanagi: Is that so? Good for you that you read the Tokyo Shinbun.
Kakinuma: He said in his column that you introduced him to Jasper Johns. Do you remember anything about your interaction with visual artists in New York?
Ichiyanagi: I socialized with visual artists and architects quite a lot. The closest friends were Jasper Johns and (Robert) Rauschenberg. Yokoo was attracted to pop art artists like Andy Warhol, who came a little later. I was more with those who had already been active, like architects Buckminster Fuller and Philip Johnson.
Kakinuma: Did you know Jackson Pollock?
Ichiyanagi: Not personally, no.
Kakinuma: I see. John Cage didn’t seem to like Pollock that much. Did he say anything about that to you?
Ichiyanagi: Is that right!? No, he didn’t mention anything specific.
Kakinuma: For instance, he was rather critical about Pollock’s Glass Painting in A Year from Monday. He never talked about that?
Ichiyanagi: That topic hardly came up between us, as Pollock also died young in a car accident.
Kakinuma: I see. So now, you got to know Yokoo and after returning to Japan, you both were in the Psycho-Delicious Show at Sogetsu, and also appeared on 11 PM.* (*TV program)
Ichiyanagi: Who did?
Kakinuma: You, Mr. Ichiyanagi. [laughs] You don’t remember this? You’ve said that you did something with someone on 11 PM. Perhaps The Third Fashion, the piece you wrote around that time – do you recall this at all?
Ichiyanagi: When he [Yokoo] came to New York, there was a rush of new Avant-Garde bands that all performed in the city. He got totally into it.
Kakinuma: And he drifted towards rock and the underground scene, you mean?
Ichiyanagi: Well, at the time, I was pretty occupied with the upcoming release of a score from Peters. Then, Yokoo arrived; I knew he had landed, but you know how he is, he wouldn’t even leave his apartment, unable to speak a word of English. He couldn’t even go to the gallery on Madison Avenue that invited him, and I remember taking him there.
Kakinuma: And then, you two wrote the opera From the Works of Tadanori Yokoo in ’69. Were you in charge of all the musical elements, like inserting Enka?* (*Japanese popular music genre/songs)
Ichiyanagi: We split it up.
Kakinuma: But was it your idea to have Yuya Uchida in it?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, but we mutually agreed. I had known Yuya a long time and [his] Flower Travellin’ Band was the most cutting-edge in Japan back then.
Kakinuma: Who first called it an Opera?
Ichiyanagi: Which of us was it… Yokoo’s paintings may have reminded us of an opera.
Kakinuma: And there was the second Orchestral Space in ’68 where you also had a rock band and an orchestra performing together. Was Takemitsu the conductor?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, he was.
Kakinuma: But it didn’t go all the way, as the rock part didn’t work; it fell apart at the beginning or something?
Ichiyanagi: What happened was Takemitsu could not keep going because he did not have much past conducting experience. I was disappointed it ended so soon. I only asked him to send cues to the rock band on one side and to the orchestra on the other. But he stopped conducting altogether. I wanted him to go on for at least fifteen to twenty minutes. I probably didn’t even explain it too much, thinking it wasn’t necessary. He was completely unsuited for progressive rock and gave it up after about three minutes.
Kakinuma: You had no preliminary discussions?
Ichiyanagi: We must have verified the positioning of the musicians, or when each instrument should come in.
Kakinuma: Takemitsu did not follow that?
Ichiyanagi: Well, he just stopped directing after three minutes, so it didn’t work as a piece of music.
Takeuchi: That is short.
Ichiyanagi: It was. I made a mistake in selecting him as the conductor.
Kakinuma: Why did you ask him in the first place?
Ichiyanagi: I assumed that he would have an objective comprehension as a composer, and also, no other conductors wanted to direct a rock band.
Kakinuma: Didn’t you think you should do it yourself?
Ichiyanagi: I wanted to listen to the whole thing from the audience.
Takeuchi: Uh-huh, in the hall.
Kakinuma: I also read that (Steve) Reich’s Piano Phase was performed on the same occasion?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, we had that, too.
Kakinuma: You performed Piano Phase in Orchestral Space?
Ichiyanagi: Right. We had a day for orchestra and a day for chamber music. It was on the day for chamber music.
Kakinuma: Oh, okay, not on the same day.
Ichiyanagi: It was the day after the orchestra performance.
Kakinuma: And that was the Japanese premier?
Ichiyanagi: It was.
Kakinuma: Who was the other pianist?
Ichiyanagi: I asked Tsuchiya [Yukio Tsuchiya] who wasn’t a classical pianist, specifically for that piece.
Kakinuma: Tsuchiya who?
Ichiyanagi: I have to look at the LP; I should have it at home.
Kakinuma: Was he a pianist?
Ichiyanagi: He was, but not of classical music.
Kakinuma: Of popular music?
Ichiyanagi: Um, pretty much. Classical pianists are often not able to play that “phasing”.
Kakinuma: So it is misinformation that Piano Phase was first performed at Expo ’70.
Ichiyanagi: That is incorrect. Steve Reich has also mentioned somewhere that we premiered it in ’68 [in Japan].
Kakinuma: Did you attend the New York premier of Piano Phase?
Ichiyanagi: Yes I did. The command performance.
Kakinuma: Was it when you were back in New York in ’66?
Ichiyanagi: I saw it in ’67. Reich played one piano himself at a contemporary music concert held at New York University.
Kakinuma: In ’67. Did you also see E.A.T.（Experiments in Art and Technology）’s 9 Evenings at the Armory?
Ichiyanagi: That was in the fall of ’66.
Kakinuma: Yes, it was in the fall. Did you go?
Ichiyanagi: No, I wasn’t there yet.
Kakinuma: So you couldn’t make it.
Ichiyanagi: No, I couldn’t, but I knew about it. That was an inaugural event that featured Billy Kluver, an engineer from Bell Laboratories, which happened shortly before we arrived. So we heard a lot about it; it was as though we just landed into the afterglow of the excitement of that event.
Kakinuma: In the fall of the same year, (Arata) Isozaki and his peers formed Enbairamento no Kai [Group Environment] and organized an exhibition Kukan kara kankyo e [From Space to Environment] – you were part of that, right?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, I was.
Kakinuma: This was in November, at Matsuya department in Ginza.
Ichiyanagi: Yeah, we missed 9 Evenings because we were having that show.
Kakinuma: That’s why you couldn’t be there in time.
Kakinuma: Speaking of “environment”, which, I understand was the concept that later developed into the theme for Expo ’70. You went to the Expo in Montreal; you and Cage drove together from New York?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, we did.
Kakinuma: Was “environment” topical at Montreal, too?
Ichiyanagi: Sure, but the media expositions were the center of attention at the Montreal Expo; Czechoslovakia stole the show.
Kakinuma: The idea of “environment” was emerging.
Ichiyanagi: It was, but where that concept really started, and was most prominent were, among visual artists.
Kakinuma: I presume that it originated from Allan Kaprow’s “environment”, which he wrote about in his book – would you agree?
Ichiyanagi: Um… well, I only saw Kaprow’s performances a couple of times, but his concept was “happening” which I think is different from “environment”, no?
VII. Cross Talk/Intermedia, Expo ’70
Kakinuma: After the Montreal Expo, there was Cross Talk/Intermedia in 1969.
Kakinuma: It was a cross-genre event, and (Robert) Ashley and (Gordon) Mumma joined from the States. Rockefeller funded it too, I believe. Were you also one of the organizers?
Ichiyanagi: I performed computer music myself, and was also involved in organizing along with Mumma, of course, and Ashley, as well as a media artist Stan VanDerBeek – we all worked together.
Kakinuma: Was the idea of “environment” still prominent then?
Ichiyanagi: Well, by then, our subject was beginning to shift towards computers. It was particularly because Gordon Mumma, who is also a horn player, was making a new electronic piece combining horn and computer. We got more into that kind of thing. I don’t think the theme of environment from Matsuya’s exhibition continued into this one.
Kakinuma: I feel that this new interest then became the basis of Expo ’70 – would you say so?
Ichiyanagi: Well, but Expo ’70 was a bigger event, almost like the Olympics, so we had been preparing for it since around ’67. Of course, we were trying to introduce these concepts as much as possible but with many obstacles. What I mean is, I really didn’t know what Expos were about, and that’s why I went to Montreal to research. The one previous to that was Expo Brussels in 1958, the year Edgard Varèse wrote Poem Electronics. That Expo had quite an emphasis on music, perhaps because of (Iannis) Xenakis’ architecture and Varèse’s music, which was his first and only electronic piece. Then, when people were discussing what theme should dominate Montreal’s Expo in ’67, Czechoslovakia took the initiative with their film. Czechoslovakia’s film certainly followed after the concept of John Cage and the like – for example, the audience determines the storyline, which way it should go, by pressing buttons on their chairs. Or a real person comes in front of the screen and performs live. Their film was extraordinary. So in ’58, it was music and ’67 was the moving image, and now computers were coming out, I was personally imagining that we could create a composite of live sound and computers for the 1970’s. But as a main theme, it didn’t fly in Japan. We could only have such things in certain pavilions and the events I took part in.
Kakinuma: You did a variety of things at Expo ’70 though.
Ichiyanagi: Well, we tried.
Kakinuma: I know you were asked to compose music to be played in the interior of Tower of the Sun – which piece was it?
Ichiyanagi: It was Music for Living Space.
Kakinuma: Ah, that one? It’s been released on CD.
Ichiyanagi: Yes, it has.
Kakinuma: The artificial voice of a computer speaks. Was this created at the request of (Kisho) Kurokawa?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, (Noboru) Kawazoe was the producer and Kurokawa designed the interior space, which was the “future” section.
Kakinuma: The computer reads out Kurokawa’s architectural theory.
Ichiyanagi: The producer Noboru Kawazoe was a critic on architecture, so he was eager to bring attention to language as an element of music.
Takeuchi: Before Expo ’70, you and (Arata) Isozaki created Electric Labyrinth for the Milano Triennale. You were responsible for the sound design; could we call it collaboration? I would like you to talk about this work.
Ichiyanagi: That one was an interactive installation of a maze, where a computer controlled cues for the electronic music, as well as the opening and closing of doors. It was recreated at MISA SHIN Gallery in Tokyo about two years ago.
Takeuchi: Was it? That’s not so long ago.
Ichiyanagi: SHIN Gallery in Furukawabashi remade it, so if you went to the gallery…
Takeuchi: We could listen to that.
Ichiyanagi: You could see it too.
Takeuchi: For the Mitsui Group Pavilion at Expo ’70, you also composed a piece with Keijirō Satō. How did this collaboration develop?
Ichiyanagi: The pavilion’s artistic director Katsuhiro Yamaguchi appointed the two of us. He was quite enthusiastic about our collaboration and entrusted us with the entire sound design.
Takeuchi: How did you divide your parts?
Ichiyanagi: We shared tasks in mixing sounds, reflecting upon some ideas of “environment”; in other words, not just musical sounds but also the sounds of (Music-) Concrete and electronic.
Takeuchi: Did you record it on a tape in the end?
Ichiyanagi: I believe it was a tape.
Takeuchi: You’ve talked somewhere that this collaboration was an invaluable experience.
Ichiyanagi: It really was.
Takeuchi: Have you not collaborated in this specific way much in the past?
Ichiyanagi: No, not really. Keijirō Satō went into a direction beyond music after that…
Takeuchi: Right, he went on making sound sculptures…
Ichiyanagi: He was interested in those sorts of ideas too, which worked out perfectly for our collaboration.
Takeuchi: You easily related to each other’s concepts?
Ichiyanagi: We hit it off, and shared a free-flow of ideas.
VIII. Cage, Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Kakinuma: Going back to your first stay in the States, I take it you were involved in a range of things after you met Cage. One thing I forgot to ask is, you went to The New School for Social Research, did you?
Kakinuma: You were in John Cage’s class – how long was it?
Ichiyanagi: About a half year.
Kakinuma: Who else was in your class, your classmates?
Ichiyanagi: Er, I think Kaprow might have been there.
Kakinuma: I believe he was.
Ichiyanagi: I think so – yes, he was. And Jackson Mac Low, who was writing concrete poetry; also several young dancers.
Kakinuma: Dancers? Do you remember their names?
Ichiyanagi: I don’t really, but they were the youngest students.
Kakinuma: Was Dick Higgins in your class?
Ichiyanagi: I wonder… I’d think I would have noticed him as he was so boisterous. [laughs]
Kakinuma: Was he? [laughs]
Ichiyanagi: He always stood out. He could have taken control over and disrupted the class but I don’t recall anything like that, so it means he wasn’t there.
Kakinuma: I’ve actually met him once; he was sitting next to me at a concert.
Kakinuma: He was such a gentleman. I asked, “Are you also a musician?” and he replied, “I’m a composer.” Then I said, “Oh, what is your name please?” and he said, “Dick Higgins.” I was surprised since I never thought of him as a composer but he said he was.
Ichiyanagi: Is that right? It doesn’t sound like him.
Kakinuma: I was like, “[Is it] really [him]?” because he looked so dandy in a suit. It was at Henry Cowell’s centennial concert; I asked to take his photo. I didn’t expect him to be so polite as I also thought he would be rougher.
Ichiyanagi: You know, he was most unruly when his father was alive.
Kakinuma: Oh, is that right?
Ichiyanagi: When his father passed away, Dick took over his company. Maybe since then, he has changed, I wonder.
Kakinuma: I had known the stories about him breaking the piano etc., and he was nothing like who I had imagined.
Ichiyanagi: I see.
Kakinuma: Anyway, you got to know Cage, took his class at the Social Research, and became his peer or rather, pupil. During that time, you were engaged in different activities including playing music. Did you also work as a pianist for Merce Cunningham’s Dance Company?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, I did.
Kakinuma: How long did you work for them?
Ichiyanagi: I did it for a while. About two years?
Kakinuma: You replaced Cage?
Ichiyanagi: Cage and Tudor took turns to play for them but as they were already older and established, they looked for some younger people to take over.
Kakinuma: So then, you also accompanied them on tour, the dance tours of Merce Cunningham Dance Company?
Ichiyanagi: I went perhaps twice? Not for a long time though. I didn’t stay all the way.
Kakinuma: You had an important role.
Ichiyanagi: Well, I feel that they paid me to gain experience. I had to improvise for the dance, which was so completely different from playing the accompanying piano in classes at Juilliard.
Kakinuma: Was it all improvisation?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, completely.
Kakinuma: But it couldn’t have been just anything, right? How did you play, did you emulate what Cage was doing, or you had your own style?
Ichiyanagi: Cage would be there playing once in a while, but when he plays the piano, it all becomes Jazz. He wasn’t the best pianist. [laughs]
Kakinuma: I didn’t know that. [laughs] But the dancers would dance to the accompanying improvisation?
Ichiyanagi: Well, they would dance to, or… how was it; I’m not sure who was going along with who. [laughs] But Cunningham often added indeterminate elements to no mater what they did, and demonstrated the steps to the students first, like, one, two, three, four, which becomes two, or seven, or whatever; he would first do it himself and then let the students do their own. So I’d listen to that, and then think of how to improvise, but it wasn’t that easy.
Kakinuma: I imagine it wasn’t.
Ichiyanagi: It was challenging, so I learned a lot.
Kakinuma: What were you thinking while doing it?
Ichiyanagi: Well, rather than just improvising, I even attempted the most complicated method for a while. I tried it in twelve-tone, which is the worst to improvise with. I forced myself. [laughs]
Kakinuma: You attempted it in twelve-tone…
Ichiyanagi: It’s hard because you have to remember all twelve notes.
Kakinuma: I see…
Ichiyanagi: But you know, there was one elementary class that visual artists and non-dancers would all take. Kaprow wasn’t there but for instance, the poet Jackson Mac Low who I had mentioned was. It was not at all like a conventional dance lesson, and such an invigorating environment.
Kakinuma: That must have been an incredible experience.
Ichiyanagi: Absolutely. It was a small space but a number of architects and visual artists would hang around the office, like Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, and architect Philip Johnson – the office was like a kind of salon.
Kakinuma: People mingled there.
Ichiyanagi: It was a social space and always like a party.
Kakinuma: That must have made such an impact on you, even just being there.
Ichiyanagi: Oh completely. No question about that.
Kakinuma: What a great experience.
Ichiyanagi: It absolutely was.
IX. Finland, Field Music, Upcoming projects
Kakinuma: I would like to ask you about your current activities. You’ve traveled to Finland and brought their musicians to Japan.
Kakinuma: How did it start, your connection to Finland?
Ichiyanagi: Do you know (Seppo) Kimanen?
Ichiyanagi: You may not. He has run the Kuhmo [Chamber Music] Festival for the past thirty years. Kuhmo was the middle of nowhere but he turned it into a prominent festival over thirty years. As far as I know, among Finnish musicians, he’s a very intellectual, multi talented figure who’s not just a musician, nor just a conductor. He used to be a cellist in the Sibelius Quartet and is now the master cellist in an orchestra so he’s a fantastic performer as well. He started coming to Japan as a cultural affairs officer of the Finnish embassy, since… 2007, I believe, and has put so much into getting to know Japanese artists, particularly musicians. He contacted and invited me to Finland right away. In the past, America and Germany – maybe France still does it to an extent – would invest in cultural exchanges but not anymore. Finland is particularly interested in such, and the embassy often offers their space. I don’t know how well off they are but when I was invited, they said I could bring three artists, provided they can all both compose and play. There aren’t many musicians like that nowadays, you know. So I selected the three to go with me; it was amazing, really a wonderful nation. I’ve travelled to many places, but I haven’t come across too many countries as great as the post-war States. But Finland is definitely one of them. It’s a great country with good-natured people who are so kind and humble.
Kakinuma: I think their music is also getting good lately.
Ichiyanagi: You’re right. It’s pretty impressive that so many artists… well, how can I put it; they have been bullied by so-called big brothers, you see, Sweden on one side and Russia on the other. So initially, I was not sure how good they could be. For example, the three Baltic nations, I know they’ve been trying hard but they’re still not too influential, whereas in comparison, Finland has totally become part of the West. I was shocked though at first to learn their consumer tax is 30% – not for everything but the highest is 30%.
Ichiyanagi: And no one complains about the 30% tax; that’s the most amazing part. It is so transparent how this tax gets given back into their future. When I visit them, of course I get introduced to musicians and journalists, but also their ministers would come to see me. That’s not that common; not in Japan, that individuals from unrelated areas come out to welcome you. That part is a little like America.
Kakinuma: I find it interesting that they have a festival for (Morton) Feldman.
Ichiyanagi: Sure, I can see that.
Kakinuma: I learned that Feldman highly values Sibelius and would give his university students assignments to analyze Sibelius’ Symphony.
Ichiyanagi: I didn’t know that. He is coming to Japan next month, by the way. Anyway, they now have quite a few festival producers, including the younger ones than Kimanen who has just turned 60 – they are all very active. What is interesting is that they have a lot of festivals during the summer, which is a night-less, heavenly season for them, and 80% of those are contemporary music festivals. But there are also festivals even during the winter – mind you I’ve never been there in the winter; it’s too cold for me – but they take a different approach for the winter ones. You know, it’s pitch dark in the winter; the opposite of the midnight sun; plus, it’s extremely cold that no one goes out. So they organize these festivals to encourage people to come out – I admire that they try that through music.
Kakinuma: Kaija Saariaho performed in the last Suntory Summer Festival; you must have attended it?
Ichiyanagi: Yes I did.
Kakinuma: What did you think?
Ichiyanagi: I wasn’t too keen on the harp piece. [laughs] The clarinet concert was fantastic, as Kari Kriikku’s performance was astonishing.
Kakinuma: Oh, you did not like the harp piece? [laughs] I thought it was much more gentle sounding and easier to listen to than previous contemporary music. I find that a new tendency of Finnish music myself.
Ichiyanagi: You have the point. It’s just the conductor was too in your face. [laughs] When the conductor stands out, the character of the music suffers a little. I also was under the impression that her music was generally tender altogether but that completely changed after the Clarinet Concerto.
Kakinuma: Really. [laughs]
Takeuchi: I forgot to ask you one more thing. You wrote an article titled “Sound and Music” for the magazine SEKAI in May, 1975. You talked about your experience with “field music” as part of the composition course at New York University. Who was this “teacher” in your article?
Ichiyanagi: That’s Cage.
Takeuchi: I thought it might be. You didn’t say the name.
Ichiyanagi: I didn’t ?
Takeuchi: No, so I wanted to know if this was at Juilliard, or later, after Cage.
Ichiyanagi: I see. It had nothing to do with Juilliard. It was Cage’s class. He led it, and perhaps around thirty of us, followed in some students’ cars.
Takeuchi: Because there was no name mentioned, I thought you purposely omitted it and wondered who the teacher was.
Ichiyanagi: I don’t think it was done purposely.
Takeuchi: Okay. [laughs] But this teacher was Cage.
Ichiyanagi: Yes, correct.
Takeuchi: You wrote that he urged the students to “go and listen to the sound in the forest” – where did you go?
Ichiyanagi: Well, we probably went to different places in the suburbs, about an hour drive from New York; they were not like real forests but woods and fields with few houses.
Takeuchi: Oh, so near the mountains?
Ichiyanagi: No, it wasn’t that mountainous.
Kakinuma: Wasn’t it Stony Point?
Ichiyanagi: No, not Stony Point.
Takeuchi: You said the class was once a month.
Ichiyanagi: But that kind of class didn’t happen so often.
Kakinuma: Are you talking about the Social Research’s class? At The New School?
Ichiyanagi: Yeah, that’s it.
Kakinuma: Have you been to Stony Point by any chance?
Ichiyanagi: Many times. At first, I went to Cage and Tudor’s houses; I remember Tudor cooked me curry one time. I also visited Jasper Johns’ place later.
Kakinuma: So the house Cage initially invited you to was the house in Stony Point?
Ichiyanagi: That’s right.
Kakinuma: The one covered with glass?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, it was a modern house mostly covered with glass. It was [designed by] Paul Williams, who was a so-called patron of Cage and Tudor; Cage wrote a piece called William Mix in 1952. Stan VanDerBeek also lived around there, and so did Tudor. The neighborhood felt the exact opposite to the skyscrapers in New York. We went to pick mushrooms, wild vegetables and fruits, and tea.
Takeuchi: There was lots of nature.
Ichiyanagi: Well, it was just a wild land.
Kakinuma: Was the idea of a commune popular back then? I know Maciunas tried to build one. Didn’t he ask you to take part, that he wanted to buy an island and turn it into an artist commune?
Ichiyanagi: He had great ideas but no capability to make them happen. [laughs]
Kakinuma: I heard Ay-O went to check out this island, with Yoshimasa Wada and a few others.
Ichiyanagi: Did he, really?
Kakinuma: Are you writing a new score now?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, I am.
Kakinuma: What is it, is it still a secret?
Ichiyanagi: No, not really. It is commissioned by FLUX Quartet; we invited them from the States once last year.
Kakinuma: “Fluks” Quartet, or “Fləks”?
Ichiyanagi: It’s “Fləks”. FLUX Quartet is the most vanguard quartet in the States right now. It’s spelled slightly differently from Fluxus. Two of the members are originally from Taiwan.
Kakinuma: One of their fathers owns a business, doesn’t he?
Ichiyanagi: Yes, yes. That’s the cellist’s father, who has an office in Tokyo, too. They asked me to compose a piece for them.
Kakinuma: A quartet then?
Ichiyanagi: We can say that. Or we could call it a piano quintet, but maybe more like a quartet.
Kakinuma: Will you play the piano yourself in it too?
Ichiyanagi: Well, it’s a bit hard to play with them. [laughs] You know, they are really good, and very diligent. I’m also commissioned to compose two major Double Concerto for violin and cello, to be premiered at Suntory Hall in 2017. I’m also writing a couple of solos for piano and harp.