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An Homage to Ryuichi Sakamoto (by Interlude)
Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away on March 28, 2023. Just a little while ago. If he had been battling cancer for many years now, we all wished he had more time to create and gift the world with his talent.
During a career of over 50 years, Sakamoto has brought attention to Japanese contemporary music and has managed to place himself at the forefront of avant-garde, classical, and film music. He has developed quite a unique style, reflecting both on the East, and the West. Discreetly, he has become one of the most influential composers of the 21st century.
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Sakamoto’s career can be divided into two parts; a first one with the Yellow Magic Orchestra and a second one as a solo artist. Although the composer found much success with the group he started with, it is in the latter part of his career that this article focuses on. It is also the period during which Sakamoto has developed his musical personality the most, and has been the most fertile.
This short written homage wishes to draw attention to his work and particularly his approach to music centered around his second to last project entitled async.
It seems that two figures have influenced Sakamoto the most; Debussy and Cage. If these are not the only influences — electronic music has played a fundamental role in shaping Sakamoto’s personality — they are definitely present, however, they appear with different shapes. While it is certain that Debussy has been important for the composer, Cage has never been acknowledged. Yet, his philosophy is present, and particularly in async. Unless it is the philosophy of Sakamoto that is present in Cage’s own work.
Interestingly enough, both figures have initially been influenced by the music of the East. Sakamoto even once said that Debussy owed a lot to the music of Japan, and Sakamoto owed a lot to the music of Debussy. And Cage’s entire philosophy is based on Japanese Buddhism. A full circle one would say.
If the music of Sakamoto resides in the world of minimalism, it is rather through the aesthetics of Japanese culture, than through the influence of the American musical movement. It is the art of preciseness, small movement, equality of sounds, and the beauty of the ordinary.
As the composer evolved through the years, he never let his past define him, rather, he built on what he could become. Sakamoto always maintained humility, curiosity, and simplicity in his works. If he was successful quite early as a musician, he never fell into the trap of repeating himself. When his first successes in film music appeared, he did not allow himself to repeat his past success, but rather gambled on new ways of finding creativity until his last project, Sakamoto sought ways to reinvent himself. In his later life, he returned to simplicity, allowing his existence and life events to influence his art.
Many people know Sakamoto without even realising they do. After all, he has scored many important film releases of the past decades including; Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Last Emperor, Little Buddha, Snake Eyes, The Revenant or Beckett. But one should discover what the composer has done with his own career; it is unique and delicate music, delightful and precious.
Ryuichi Sakamoto – Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Piano)
Ryuichi Sakamoto & Joe Hisaishi Best Piano Music Collection
Joe Hisaishi 01. 0:00 – A Town with an Ocean View 02. 4:35 – Always with Me 03. 9:16 – Reprise 04. 11:16 – Waltz Katzen Blut 05. 12:46 – Ever Mountain Village 06. 14:33 – The Wind Rises 07. 16:14 – Supple Bamboo 08. 17:28 – Fine on the Outside 09. 20:10 – Stroll 10. 22:12 – Merry Go Round of Life 11. 24:10 – I Can Hear the Sea 12. 26:32 – Memories of Life (Inochi no Kioku) 13. 29:41 – Summer of Goodbye 14. 34:19 – The Name of Life 15. 37:23 – Legend of Ashitaka
Ryuichi Sakamoto 16. 41:28 – The Last Emperor (Theme) – orchestral 17. 45:31 – Rain – from The Last Emperor OST 18. 49:03 – Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence 19. 53:36 – The Last Emperor (Theme) – piano 20. 1:00:06 – Forbidden Colours – piano version 21. 1:04:45 – Undercooled 22. 1:08:13 – Solitude . 1:12:58 – Blu (name omitted from video track-list) 23. 1:18:09 – Wuthering Heights 24. 1:24:23 – Happy End 25. 1:29:24 – Anna 26. 1:34:09 – Aqua 27. 1:39:30 – Seven Samurai 28. 1:45:18 – Regret