YASUNAO TONE (刀根康尚) was one of the first Japanese artists active in composing "events" and improvisational music. He has been active in the Fluxus movement since 1962 and has also been an organizer and participant in many important music and performance groups such as Group Ongaku, Hi-Red Center, Team Random (the first computer art group organized in Japan). Primarily a composer, Tone has worked in many media, creating pieces for electronics, computer systems, film, radio and television, as well as environmental art.
Tone was born in Tokyo in 1935 and graduated from Chiba Japanese National University in 1957 with a major in Japanese literature. Subsequently, he audited a program in musicology at Tokyo University of Arts. Here he founded the Group Ongaku in 1960, a group devoted to creating "event music" and improvisational music. He began participating in the Fluxus movement in 1962, and has been in events and shows in numerous places.
His first concert, "One Man Show by a Composer", was held at the Miami Gallery in Tokyo in 1962. He then became an organizer as well as contributor to various avant-garde groups. These activities encompassed happenings, experimental music, performance and "art and technology". Some of the Tokyo groups involved were the Hi-Red Center, a happening group founded in 1963; Sweet Sixteen, an event festival in 1963, the Team Random's "Biogode Process Music Festival" in 1966 (the first computer art festival in Japan, including Tone's "Theater Piece for Computer"), Intermedia Festival in 1969 and the late Tatsumi Hijikata and his Ankoku Butoh troupe. Tone also composed a great deal of experimental music for use in films, theater and dance pieces.
Since coming to the United States in 1972, he has composed four scores for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and has given solo concerts at the Kitchen, the Experimental Intermedia Foundation, Roulette, P.S.1, and other places, and participated in numerous Fluxus concerts. Since 1976, Tone has been designing musical compositions as a compound of cultural studies which have been ideas based on post-structuralist theories and audio visual materials compiled with ancient Oriental texts and musical sounds generated by electronic means. One of these works, Geography and Music, was commissioned by the American Dance Festival for Merce Cunningham's dance Roadrunners. It was part of the Cunningham Dance Company repertory between 1979 and 1986 and was heard in many festivals, including the Festival d'Automne à Paris, the John Cage Festival in San Juan and the Berlin Festival.
In 1990, Tone was commissioned to create a collaborative piece for the Westdeutscher Rundfunk's Hörspiel Festival in Cologne, and to participate in the Audio Art Festival at the Whitney Museum of American Art with Alison Knowles. He was included in the Fluxus Exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1990, where his visual works were exhibited and he gave performances.
Tone has been awarded a CAPS Grant in multi-media, a New York State Council on the Arts commission grant for flutist Barbara Held, a National Endowment for the Arts grant through the Just Above Midtown Gallery for a collaborative work with Blondell Cummings and Senga Nengdi, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in performance/emerging forms.
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