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Skidmore College

Sounds of Yoko at the Tang

February 8, 2013

Visitors to the Tang Museum at Skidmore College will receive an auditory bonus as they move about the building to see the current exhibitions by Corita Kent, Carrie Moyer, and others. Scattered throughout the museum, in spaces such as the stairwell, coatroom, and water fountain area, visitors will discover sound works by pioneering artist, musician, and activist Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono,, "Voice for Soprano," 1961
Yoko Ono, Voice Piece for Soprano,
1961 (courtesy of the Lenono Archive)

Yoko Ono: Listen, which runs through May 19,is the 23rd installment in the Tang’s sound-based series titled Elevator Music.

Trained as a musician since her childhood in Tokyo, Ono has experimented across musical genres throughout her six-decade career. Listen presents an assortment of her experiments from the early 1950s through 2009.  The selection includes Ono’s 1968 duet with musician Ornette Coleman, which the duo performed live at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Also featured is the soundtrack to Ono’s 1970 film Fly. Recorded in a single take with John Lennon on guitar, Fly features Ono embodying the voice of a fly with vocals that range from barely audible whimpers to deep cries. Other recordings include early experiments with “found” sounds, as well as tracks from the 2009 Plastic Ono Band album.

In addition to Ono’s audio recordings, the Tang is displaying the complete set of 49 instruction pieces from the Music chapter of her 1964 book Grapefruit. In these pieces, Ono uses language to create her own form of musical notation and prompts audiences to physically or imaginatively make sounds. Ono has said that the instruction pieces began “from realizing the limitations of our scoring, and suggesting an alternative to normal Western classical musical notations.”

Yoko Ono: Listen is organized by Tang Curatorial Assistant Megan Hyde and Head Registrar and Collections Manager Elizabeth Karp, in collaboration with Air Talk, an open group that meets Fridays at noon in the Tang exhibition We The People to discuss, listen, and share Ono’s artwork. For information on how to participate, visit Air Talk on Facebook.

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