Fields of indeterminacy: Toshi Ichiyanagi’s Fluxus scores

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Influenced by Fluxus artists George Brecht, Dick Higgins, and La Monte Young, (exhibited in 1962 in Tokyo’s Minami Gallery “World Graphic Scores”), a group of Japanese avant-garde musician began producing scores which promoted the unconventional and improvisational. These pieces, “open works” representing fields of meaning, introduced chance operations to the musical execution, and were accompanied by a conceptual sheet of instruction, thus giving creative agency to the performers and allowing them to rewrite the pieces in different spatial and temporal contexts.

Among the work of Fluxus composers Shigeko Kubota, Yoko Ono, Mieko Shiomi, and Yasunao Tone, there is the one by Toshi Ichiyanagi, an avant-garde musician married to Yoko Ono from 1956 to 1963. His scores, drawn or typed between the 1960′s and the 1970′s, can be enacted but were also conceived as stand-alone art objects.

In fact they were pieces that could be experienced primarily for their visual qualities. As well grasped by the author of “Plagiarism is Necessary“, these scores denote an architectural quality “which seem to pre-figure the radical anti-design of Italian groups such as Archizoom and Superstudio”.

Here is a selection.

Image above:

Toshi Ichiyanagi. IBM for Merce Cunningham. 1960 (Fluxus Edition announced 1963). Score. Master for the Fluxus Edition, typed and drawn by George Maciunas, New York. Ink, typewriting, and graphite on transparentized paper. 21 x 29.3 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift. © 2012 Ichiyanagi Toshi. Photograph by Peter Butler.

Below:

Toshi Ichiyanagi. Kaiki [Recurrence] for Koto for John Cage, 1960

Toshi Ichiyanagi. Music for Electric Metronome. 1960. (and Instructions). Master for the Fluxus Edition, typed and drawn by George Maciunas, New York. Typewriting on carbon, and stamped ink on transparentized paper, 11 5/8 x 8 3/16″ (29.5 x 20.8 cm). Unless otherwise noted, all works: The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift. Photo: Peter Butler

Toshi Ichiyanagi. Music for Piano n° 7, March 1961 (and Instructions) (Fluxus archives)

Toshi Ichiyanagi Stanzas For Kenji Kobayashi (1961)

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Related:

Exhibiting Fluxus: Keeping Score in Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde. An article and exhibition at the MOMA NY
Art Tattler: Archive Tokyo

Graphic scores, on Socks:

Graphic Scores by Martin Davorin-Jagodić
The Unplayable Score: Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz – John Stump
Radical Music: Llorenç Barber, Cuaderno de Yokohama (2005)