British art historian Simon Schama sat down with Yoko Ono in advance of her upcoming Serpentine Gallery exhibition in London, and the result is a nice Financial Times profile of the artist, who “has the nimble appearance of someone for whom the word ‘elfin’ was coined,” according to Mr. Schama. There are also refreshingly few mentions of John Lennon, a regular fixation of many Ono profile writers.
At one point, Ms. Ono discusses her education at a school in Japan for “precociously gifted musicians,” which goes a long way toward explaining the unusually spare, Zen characteristics of some of her pieces. Here’s Mr. Schama:
…her homework assignment was to listen carefully to the noises of the day at home – the ticking or ring of a clock; the dripping of a tap – and turn them into musical notes. “Did you like doing that?” I ask. “It doesn’t matter. I had to do it anyway,” she laughs. Then, when atrocious obliteration was visited on Japan, an involuntary, extreme eradication of the clutter of life by military retribution, those moments of concentrated sense reception became correspondingly precious.
Also, did you know that Ms. Ono moved as a child to Scarsdale, New York, just north of the city in Westchester? Mr. Schama muses that, “with its picture-perfect lawn, picket-fenced mansions and Chopin-playing prodigies [it] embodied this unexamined equation of commodity gratification with happiness that was the antithesis of Zen.”
Really, read the whole thing.