Long overshadowed by her celebrity marriage, Yoko Ono has attracted growing recognition from art historians and critics for her wildly imaginative multimedia work.
Even in the midst of this acclaim, however, little attention has been paid to her decades-long work as a composer and musician. Ono made her debut in New York in the early 1960s with extensive training in classical music; she described her early works as “music of the mind” and even as “opera.” These activities became enmeshed with an emergent peace activism motivated by her childhood experiences as an internal refugee. In this seminar, we will explore Ono’s early musical “vocation”—at once a calling, a career, and a voice—locating her in a rich tradition of thought about musical drama, philosophy, and politics.
Brigid Cohen is Associate Professor of Music at New York University. Her first book Stefan Wolpe and the Avant-Garde Diaspora (Cambridge University Press, 2012) won the Lockwood Award from the American Musicological Society. Her second monograph, Musical Migration and Imperial New York: Early Cold War Scenes (University of Chicago Press, 2022) explores questions of displacement and citizenship through a study of New York concert avant-gardes, jazz, electronic music, and performance art in the 1950s and 1960s. Her recent work has been supported by the Max Planck Institute for History of Science, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Wellesley College. She is also part of an ongoing arts collaborative and research group called Consent Lab.