As the daughter of an educated concert pianist (albeit working as a banker) Ono received »classical-Western« piano and singing lessons and visited kabuki theater with her parents. In the 1950s she made contact with New York avant-garde musicians and composers such as Stefan Wolpe, John Cage and David Tudor. In 1955 she developed her first concepts and stagings between music and performance. In 1960 avant-garde concerts organized by La Monte Young took place in her New York loft. The 1960s included numerous appearances and stagings in the context of Fluxus concerts. At that time, in the early 1960s, Ono didn’t yet make a clear distinction between musical and visual works. Instructions or Scores were acted out either by Ono herself or by others.
Through John Lennon she came in contact with pop music from 1966 on. Numerous recordings and publications as artist duo followed. Their first collective album was Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins from 1968, and Ono’s first solo album, Fly, appeared in 1971. Characteristic for Ono was exhausting the spectrum of her voice between vocals and noise, something between screaming, coughing and squawking.
In 1966 she began to distinguish between musical and visual works. The Plastic Ono Band was founded in 1969, one of the first super rock groups with alternating members, including Ringo Star and Eric Clapton. Many singles and full-length records followed, as did performances, most together with John Lennon, like Live Peace in Toronto in 1969.
After Lennon’s death in 1980 Yoko Ono’s pop-musical work went through many phases, deploying many syntheses and technical innovations. She increasingly published her music in digital format. Still today Ono plays numerous concerts. An exceptional feature of these concerts is the multiple collaborations with other musicians, for instance Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, Antony/Anohni, Rufus Wainwright, Peaches and Lady Gaga.