”The time was 1946, place: Tokyo. I was confronting my father who, as usual, sat in a deep comfortable chair with his pipe and suede jacket. I had told him that I wanted to be a composer. I would not have dreamt of making such a bold statement unless it just jumped out of my mouth, which it had. Initially, my father had called me to his study only to tell me that I should give up on being a pianist. ”You’re not good enough. Just give up practising. It’s a waste of time.” It was said in a kind and gentle tone. My becoming a pianist, however, had been my father’s wish, not mine. I felt relieved that I did not have to practise anymore. ”Actually, I want to be a composer, father.” I said. There was a silence. I sensed I had inadvertently dropped a bomb, and felt butterflies in my stomach. ”Well,” my father said after a considerable silence, ”there are not many women composers in the world, Yoko. At least I haven’t heard of one yet. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe it’s a question of women’s aptitude. I know you are a talented and intelligent child. But I wonder… I don’t want you to struggle in vain.”
How could he have known that it may not have been a question of gender aptitude? In those days, the fact that a father would discuss a daughter’s career was already considered quite unusual. Daughters were brought up to go to finishing schools and hoped to get married before people started to raise their eyebrows. I am still thankful that my father cared at all about my career.
There are not many women composers in the world, Yoko. At least I haven’t heard of one yet. Maybe there’s a reason for that.”
Eventually, he made me take voice lessons to sing German lieders, saying that that would be a vocation which would satisfy both my love for poetry and music. ”Women may not be good creators of music, but they’re good at interpreting music”, was what he said. I rebelled, gave up my voice lessons, and went to a Japanese University to study Philosophy while being a closet song writer.”
Yoko Ono 1992 (in She’s A Rebel by Gillian G. Gaar)