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Teiji Ito

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Biography

Modern composer Teiji Ito was born in Tokyo in 1935 into a known theater family. When he was six years old, they moved to the U.S., and at this young age Ito made his performing debut as accompanying drummer to the Korean and Japanese dance performance by his mother at the Museum of Natural History in N.Y.C. Ito ran away at the age of 15 and met U.S. experimental filmmaker Maya Deren, and by 1952, was writing film scores for her. He had difficulty finding musicians who could both play a variety of world instruments, and interpret his idiosyncratic scores, and as a result, recorded many pieces himself. Ito went to Haiti with Deren by 1955, and it was there that Ito studied with the master drummer Coyote. Ito and Deren got married, and he continued to write musical scores for her projects; in 1959, he wrote a score for Meshes of the Afternoon, a silent film of Deren's from 1943. He remained with Deren until her death in 1961. That year he recorded King Ubu, written for a New York production of Alfred Jarry's pre-dadaist masterpiece, then completed Deren's last (and unfinished) film, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti. In 1963, he scored the Boultenhouse film, Dionysus. Ito's music entitled Shaman was used as the soundtrack to animator Harry Smith's hand-painted Early Abstractions. In 1972, Ito's book The Japanese Garden was published, describing the basic elements of a Japanese garden, as well as the elements' and garden's relationship to each other. His third wife, Cherel Ito, became executor of the Deren collection. Teiji Ito died in 1982 while visiting Haiti. It wasn't until 1998 that his recording of King Ubu was finally made available again by the Tzadik label, as authorized by the composer's estate. ~ Joslyn Layne
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