- David W. Bernstein
- , revised by Wendy F. Hsu
(b Tokyo, Japan, Feb 18, 1933). American performance artist, composer, singer, and songwriter of Japanese birth. Ono was born into a wealthy banking family and raised in Tokyo. In 1953, she moved to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College where she studied music and philosophy. Ono married Toshi Ichiyanagi in 1956. In the early 1960s the couple’s Manhattan apartment became the site of many performance events; several of the artists who performed there later became associated with Fluxus. Dubbed “the high priestess of the happening,” Ono was a pioneer in the conceptual art movement. She once claimed that “the only sound that exists … is the sound of the mind.” Her conceptual scores, described by George Maciunas as “Neo-Haiku Theater,” often consist of only brief instructions. Earth Piece (1963), for example, instructs the performer to “listen to the sound of the earth turning.” A specialist in extended vocal techniques, Ono performed self-composed pieces that featured her virtuosic vocal exploration of screams, sighs, moans, gasps, and multi-phonics....