Pushing the boundaries of the meaning of music and performance, the Sogetsu Art Center (SAC) drew some of the most cutting-edge composers and performers from Japan and around the world to its stage. Scroll down to see scores, fliers, photographs, and other documentation related to music at the Sogetsu Art Center. This feature is made possible through a collaborative effort between MoMA staff and Uesaki Sen and presents a curated focus on a range of visual material (programs, printed matter, scores) related to selected musical events that took place at the Sogetsu Art Center, bringing together materials from the archives at the Keio Art Center and the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection at The Museum of Modern Art. You can view all of the printed matter related to events at SAC in the Sogetsu Art Center Theme. While this feature focuses on music, it is also worth noting that the openness and willingness of regular attendees to participate in cross-genre exchanges laid the foundation for the activities at SAC, with its particular mix of experimentalists with backgrounds in art, film, jazz, classical music, design, and more.
In this environment, musical performances showcased the early free improvisers of Group Ongaku, Ichiyanagi Toshi and his Happenings, Yoko Ono and Shiomi Mieko’s Events, and included visits by U.S. artists John Cage and David Tudor. After film, music events were the most frequently programmed. The Sogetsu Contemporary Series, initially conceived for the presentation of experimental and avant-garde music, film, performance, and dance, focused overwhelmingly on music. Some of these events were portraits by young composers such as Takemitsu Toru, Matsudaira Yoriaki, and Hayashi Hikaru. Others focused on presenting new and recent works by international composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Olivier Messiaen, Morton Feldman, and Karlheinz Stockhausen alongside young Japanese artists. While such a lineup of names may seem to replicate the “masters” of the European and North American avant-garde, the combinations in which they were presented were quite unique to the particular context of the Sogetsu Art Center. For example, at a concert on October 12, 1963, the ensemble New Direction performed the music of High modernist Pierre Boulez on the same night as Kosugi Takehisa’s Organic Music, a piece based on a simple set of instructions that state, “Breath by oneself or / have something breathed / for the number of times which you have decided / at the performance. / Each number must contain breath-in-hold-out. / Instruments may be used incidentally.” Such combinations could not happen at the Donaueschingen Festival in Germany (the oldest and one of the most prestigious strongholds of the musical avant-garde) or at a Fluxus Festival taking place in a downtown New York loft. Other events, such as the Group Ongaku concert in 1961, were one-time events. While the bulk of the musical activities happened by 1964, a significant performance called Kukan kara kankyo e (From Space to Environment) took place in 1966, to accompany a multimedia exhibition of the same name that focused on the intersections between sound, art, and technology.
The events below are organized by date. For each event, a program of the pieces performed is displayed, along with a collection of related materials. The materials you see here are part of a growing body of material objects, and we’re still in the early stages of scholarly examination to make sense of them. If you have ideas, analyses, or stories about the works and events presented here, or related images, sounds, and movies that could shed new light on this group of materials, please share them!
An extensive two-part interview with Tone, together with documentation from a concert of his works that was held at The Museum of Modern Art in January 2013 in the context of the exhibition Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde, and with material related to his output, since the 1960s, as a musician, artist, and critic.