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Jazz in Europe – Wendy Kirkland

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The Music’s on Me is the latest album from Pianist/Vocalist Wendy Kirkland and follows her successful début Piano Divas album released in early 2017. The album contains a blend of original compositions combined with arrangements of instrumentals from Wes Montgomery, Michel Petrucciani, Don Grolnick and Russell Malone with lyrics added by Wendy herself.

Wendy Kirkland free sheet music & pdf scores download

With her previous release being a homage to the female performers that influenced her musical development, this current album is less thematic in nature yet stylistically similar. In a recent interview published on London Jazz News Wendy said: “With Piano Divas I was focusing on singer-pianists, whereas this time I was really looking to create as much variety as possible…” I would have to agree with this, The Music’s on Me provides the listener with a wide palette of feels, ranging from the medium swing of the title track to the more adventurous rendition of Don Grolnick’s “Pools”.

The album features Wendy’s regular working band comprising Pat Sprakes (guitar), Paul Jefferies (double bass) and Steve Wyndham (drums) along with special guests Roger Beaujolais (vibraphone) and Tommaso Starace (saxophone) both contributing.

Since the release of Piano Divas, the band has been holding down a rigorous touring schedule, and this can be heard in the interplay the group have developed. Sprakes, Jefferies and Wyndham form a formidable rhythm section providing a strong base for Kirkland to weave her vocalese.

Vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais makes an appearance on “Pools” with an impressive unisono version of the melody together with Wendy before moving into a well-crafted solo. Italian Saxophonist Tommaso Starace appears on the “September Second” and the closing track “Travelling Home” providing strong solos on both tunes and in particular the soprano solo on the latter.

My personal highlights on the album are “Pools” and the closing track “Travelling Home”, Both tracks display a slightly more modern flavour. I particularly enjoyed Pat Sprakes guitar work with wonderful solos on “O Gato Molhado” and “Sunday In New York.”

Wendy stated in a recent interview here on Jazz In Europe that she considers herself a pianist that sings and this is evident in the strong piano work throughout the album. This in no way detracts from her vocal ability and in fact, it is the instrumental nature of her vocals that make it so attractive. When listening to this album I keep coming back to Blossom Dearie and yet, while obviously influenced by Dearie it’s clear that Wendy has developed her take on it.

My Baby Just Cares For Me – Wendy Kirkland: Piano Divas

Originally a jolly little show tune sung by Eddie Cantor, updated as female empowerment jazz number by Nina Simone, and re-arranged in the style of Al Jarreau’s ‘We’re In This Love Together’ to commemmorate Al’s untimely passing this year.


from Piano Divas, released March 21, 2017
Wendy Kirkland – piano and voice
Pat Sprakes – guitar
Paul Jefferies – double bass
Stevie Smith – drums

The best Jazz sheet music download here.

Wendy Kirkland – pianist, singer, Hammond player

She was a childhood piano student then professional engineer and is now the English pianist who sings (an important distinction), with influences including Eliane Elias, Dena Derose, Carol Welsman and Shirley Horn

Pianist and singer Wendy Kirkland has been a mainstay of the UK Jazz scene since the late noughties, but it was her first album, Piano Divas, released in 2017 that began her ascent to wider recognition as a “Singing Pianist”, as dubbed by Jazz Journal.

The ability to sing at the same time as comping and craft solos on the piano or unison piano/voice scat lines is her forte, with influences such as Diana Krall, Eliane Elias and Dena DeRose. Further accolades were given for her 2019 release The Music’s On Me, dubbed “a huge leap forward” by Jazz Views. Both albums prompted ACE funded tours all over the UK and constant radio airplay ever since.

During lockdown from March 2020, Wendy and guitarist/bassist husband Pat Sprakes entertained with a daily dose of Latin American music on Facebook which they entitled Latin Lockdowns. After 86 such performances they decided it was time to move on to other musical endeavours, but were amazed and pleased to receive daily messages from people who described the videos in such terms as “a ray of sunshine” in their lockdown situations.

Wendy’s musical career began at age 10, when she started taking piano lessons. She won a scholarship to have all her lessons paid for by Derbyshire Music, and continued to take her ABRSM piano grades.

Switching to jazz in her late teens, Wendy continued her playing career as a dance class pianist, accompanist to singers and as a keyboardist in club bands.

After being persuaded to sing by a great friend and guitarist, Bill McCreath, Wendy learned to reach people who are perhaps turned off by instrumental jazz, as she learnt to communicate with the audience through the songs. Wendy’s voice has been likened to Blossom Dearie with hints of Diana Krall.

Current projects include Piano Divas, a tribute to the female pianist singers of jazz; hammond organ jazz outfit Organik Fource featuring Pat Sprakes on guitar and guest saxophonist; Organik Trio Goes To The Movies and The Organik Cookbook celebrating the early soul-jazz albums of George Benson.

Wendy is married to jazz guitarist and bass player Pat Sprakes. They met by chance on a gig and have been making music together ever since.

Best Classical Music

Do you know who AMY BEACH was?

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (September 5, 1867 – December 27, 1944) was an American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. Her “Gaelic” Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era. As a pianist, she was acclaimed for concerts she gave featuring her own music in the United States and in Germany. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (full biography and compositions here)

sheet music

You can listen to this romantic pieces (4 Sketches, Op.15, no. 3), here. And very soon the Sheet Music Library will include this tender romantic composition.

Best Classical Music Beautiful Music


FREDERIC MOMPOU (sheet music download)

Table of Contents

    Mompou was a Catalan composer of lyric songs and piano miniatures whose music is characterized by Impressionist elegance, simple and direct melody, and the haunting, deep emotions of folk music.

    Mompou studied piano at the Conservatorio del Liceo in Barcelona and gave his first concert at the age of 15. Three years later, with a letter of recommendation from composer Granados, he went to Paris to study piano and harmony. While there, he wrote his first piano pieces, the Impresiones intimas (1911-1914).

    He became very taken with Debussy and the modern French composers, especially the spare melodiousness of Erik Satie. Mompou characterized this Satie quality in his music as “recomençament” (starting over at the beginning), a return to a kind of fundamental, basic state of realization. In emulation of Satie, Mompou adopted his method of scoring (in many of the piano works) by eliminating bar lines and key signatures, and (like Bartók and other composers) placing accidentals only before the notes to which they immediately apply.

    He also picked up the idea of inserting unusual and often illogically humorous comments, directions, and surreal images in the score, which actually serve to suggest the mood of a passage more adequately than the normal emotional and articulation markings — some of Mompou‘s directions were “Chantez avec le fraîcheur de l’herbe humide” and “Donnez des excuses.”

    When World War I broke out, Mompou returned to Barcelona, where he continued composing from 1914-1921. His works at that time include the song L’hora grisa (1915) to words by Blancafort, and the piano sets Pessebres (1914-1917), Scènes d’enfants (1915-1918), Cants mágìcs (1917-1919), Fêtes lointaines (1920), and Charmes (1920-1921). Suburbis (1916-1917) contains musical portraits of people encountered during Mompou‘s long walks.

    They were richly orchestrated by Manuel Rosenthal in 1936. In El carrer, el guitarrista i el cavall (The road, the guitarist and the old horse) a trumpet tune suggests the slow progress of a cart loaded with stone drawn by a weary horse “with large, sad eyes.” An old man grinds a (wonderfully imitated) barrel organ. Gitane I and Gitane II draw portraits of two female gypsy friends, La Fana and La Chatuncha, through teasing dance music.

    La cegueta expresses gentle empathy for “the little blind girl” whose slow, uncertain walk is expressed by mirrored patterns. In L’home de l’Aristó (The ariston player) we hear a jolly pieces played again by the wandering beggar musician.

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    In 1921 Mompou returned to Paris where he remained 20 years, and then returned permanently to Barcelona. He was made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and elected to the Royal Academy of San Jorge in Barcelona and of San Fernando in Madrid.

    The creation of many piano sets extended over large time spans: the 12 Cançons i dansas (1921-1928, 1942-1962), the ten Préludes (1927-1930, 1943-1951), Variaciones sobre un tema di Chopin (1938-57), the brilliant and evocative Paisajes (1942-1960), and Música callada (1959-1967).

    Several of his significant songs include the Comptines I-VI (1931, 1943), Combat del somni (1942-1948), and Llueve sobre el rio, Pastoral (1945). His works for chorus are the Cantar del alma (1951) with text from St. John of the Cross, and Improperios (1963) for chorus and orchestra.

    Frederic Mompou

    The music of the Catalan composer Frederic Mompou (1893–1987)

    is radically simple, spare, mystical, and utterly unclassifiable as to style—all this in a century that favored intellectual feats on the part of composers who classified themselves into schools and “isms.”

    The work he regarded as a summation of his life’s efforts was given the quizzical title Música callada—(music that has fallen silent). Find his complete sheet music in our Library.

    The restraint of Mompou’s music was matched by the composer’s near-total refusal to engage in self-promotion. Mompou’s music, mostly for piano or voice and piano, at first attracted only a small, highly devoted following.

    Wider audiences began to discover his works toward the end of the twentieth century, when the Minimalist movement of composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass heralded a new spirit of extreme simplicity in classical music, and a new emphasis on the experience of hearing musical raw materials stripped down to their basic forms. John Rockwell of the New York Times, in fact, wrote in Mompou’s obituary that the composer was “an early Minimalist, [who] sought to achieve deep emotional effects through the sparest of musical means.”

    Family Background Included Bell Maker

    Mompou’s full name was Frederic Mompou i Dencausse. He was born on April 16, 1893, in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain). Barcelona is in Spain’s Catalonia region, a culturally distinctive area with its own language, Catalan (a blend of Spanish and an old southern French dialect), and a range of indigenous folk music traditions that differ from those heard elsewhere in Spain.

    Music critic Wilfrid Mellers suggested that Frederic Mompou was influenced by these regional traditions. He wrote in the study Le Jardin retrouvé: The Music of Frederic Mompou, “Even today, when we listen to or play one of the piano pieces he calls Cançó i dansa [Song and Dance] we should remember that they are not mere parlor pieces but recollections of activity that is also ritual.”

    Mompou used both the Catalan (Frederic) and Spanish (Federico) forms of his first name. His last name is generally pronounced as in French (mom-POOH), but Mompou told an interviewer that in Catalonia it would properly be pronounced mom-POH-oo, with all the vowels sounding.

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    Another major influene on Mompou’s creation of his magically simple sound was bells. His maternal grandfather was a member of a French bell-making family that had been in the profession since the 1400s; he had come to Barcelona to set up a bell factory. Mompou himself spent time at the factory, worked there briefly, and learned to tune his ear to the subtle sounds of bells. A unique harmony in his music, known as the metallic chord, was derived from the sound of ringing bells.

    Mompou was close to his parents, and they encouraged his interest in music. Friends and extended family often came to the Mompou home to sing and dance, and Mompou was given lessons after he showed talent on the piano. He attended the Conservatorio del Liceo music school in Barcelona and made rapid progress, giving his first concert at age 15. But the severely shy Mompou never really enjoyed performing.

    He quickly changed direction after hearing pianist Marguerite Long, with the great French composer Gabriel Fauré in attendance, play a concert of Fauré’s music the following year. The concert was, he told Dorle J. Soria of Musical America, his first encounter “with contemporary music of my time and it gave me a great desire to compose.” His first published work was a set of piano pieces called Impresiones intimas (Intimate Impressions), written between 1911 and 1914. “It already had his personality,” Mompou’s wife, Carmen, told Soria, and music historians have agreed, finding the characteristic simple, almost naive quality of Mompou’s adult music already present in the early Impresiones intimas.

    Like most of the other young Spanish composers of his day, Mompou decided to study music in Paris, where French composers had written nationalistic Spanish music before Spanish composers themselves began to do so. He arrived at the Paris Conservatory in 1911 with a letter of recommendation written by the leading Spanish composer Enrique Granados, but, typically, was too shy to show it to the admissions committee.

    Nevertheless, his music stood on its own merits, and he studied piano and harmony at the Conservatory for two years. Remaining in Paris until 1914, he returned home when World War I broke out and became involved in a Catalonian arts movement called Noucentisme, which rejected the confrontational spirit of the avant-garde and emphasized a return to classical values of balance.

    Selected Classical Sheet Music

    Influenced by French Composers

    Mompou had the knack of absorbing influences from various composers while writing music that was quite dissimilar to theirs. Despite his shyness he interacted with other musicians and became acquainted with the leading edge of French music of the early twentieth century. He admired the iconic composers of Paris during the years of World War I, and took something from each of them. Like Claude Debussy, he eschewed any strong sense of directional motion in music, preferring to paint musical colors on an almost static background.

    Like Maurice Ravel, he was fascinated by the world of childhood and the musical creativity that seemed to reside near its surface; he had a gift for melodies that seemed unassuming, but haunted listeners, who responded to his unique language. From the unconventional, ironic Erik Satie he inherited a belief that radical simplicity had its place, and he showed the same tendency to go his own way rather than follow the prevailing musical fashion. The harmonic stasis of Mompou’s music was matched by an absence of strong rhythmic drive; he frequently wrote his music without bar lines separating one rhythmic unit from another.

    free sheet music pdf

    Stimulated by the Parisian scene, Mompou returned to Paris in 1921 and remained there for 20 years. The period from World War I through about 1930 was Mompou’s most productive, and he published such piano works as Suburbis (Suburbs, 1917), Scènes d’enfants (Scenes of Children,1918), the Cants mágics (Magic Songs, 1919), and the first four of his Cançós i dansas (Songs and Dances, 1928), along with the beginnings of a small but influential group of French-language songs.

    His Comptines of 1931 were songs based on children’s number rhymes. Mompou’s lifetime output was slender, amounting to about 200 mostly short pieces collected into a few dozen sets. In the highly competitive and polemical Paris atmosphere, Mompou rarely gave concerts, although he liked to perform for small groups of artists and writers. He lived alone and stayed out of the headlines. Yet a select group of observers were captivated by his music. Critic Emile Vuillermoz wrote of Mompou, in a famous newspaper article quoted by Soria, that “in the Middle Ages the people would have condemned to the stake an artist gifted with such powers.”

    The argument was an apt one, for Mompou aimed not just at simplicity but at what he called a recommencement, a new beginning that would put music back in touch with its aboriginal power. Mompou was a friend to the French composers Francis Poulenc and Georges Auric, but declined to join the composers’ collective Les Six (The Six), of which they were members.

    The 1930s were a melancholic period for Mompou and he stopped composing almost completely between about 1931 and 1937. He reemerged in 1937 with a piano work called Souvenirs d’exposition (Souvenirs of the Fair) and began working on another piece, Variations on a theme of Chopin, that would occupy him for many years. In 1941 Mompou fled the war in France and returned to Barcelona.

    While judging a piano competition there he was impressed by the performance of a young woman named Carmen Bravo, 30 years his junior. Several years later they married, each for the first time. Mompou joined with a group called the Independent Catalan Composers Movement and reconnected with his musical roots, while still maintaining contact with friends in France.

    With these stimuli working in his favor, Mompou began to compose again, continuing to work until he was slowed by a stroke at age 87. In the post-World War II era, dominated by the complex serialist or 12-tone system and its harsh dissonances, Mompou was completely out of fashion—and completely unconcerned. “I am in revolt against the excessive cerebration of our age,” he was quoted as saying by Soria. “Music must cease to be a laboratory product and acquire the lyrical and evocative qualities which spring from personal experience and meditation.”

    Wrote Vocal Works

    Mompou branched out beyond piano music after World War II, writing a number of Catalonian-language songs and pairing them with texts by poet Josep Janées i Olive. These included the widely recorded Suite compostelana (Compostela Suite) for guitar (1962), and various works for chorus, including the Cantar del alma (Song of the Soul) to a text by the Spanish mystic and ascetic, St. John of the Cross (1542–1591). Mompou was fascinated by St. John of the Cross and borrowed a phrase from one of his writings for the title of the major work of his later years, Música callada.

    Mompou: Complete Piano Works (Full Album) played by Federico Mompou

    The 28 pieces in Música callada (four albums, 1959–67), never move faster than a moderate tempo; in free rhythms, they are unassuming yet strangely powerful. This music, Mompou was quoted as saying by Isabelle Leymarie in the UNESCO Courier, “is heard internally. Its emotion is secret, and becomes sound only by reverberating in the coldness of our solitude.” The work, completed in 1967, was premiered in 1972 by Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha, to whom it was dedicated. A host of recordings of the work appeared in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    Mompou wrote an oratorio—an unstaged dramatic work—called Los improperios (The Ungrateful Ones) in 1963; although it was his only work to feature a full symphony orchestra, it showed no lack of skill in handling that medium. The text of the work dealt with the Good Friday speech of the crucified Christ rebuking the crowd for its ingratitude, and Mompou set it in a spare style comparable to that of his piano music.

    Well into his ninth decade Mompou wrote more choral music and a work for cello and piano, El pont. Admirers of Mompou expanded the collection of his works by arranging some of his piano music into two ballets, The House of Birds and Don Perlimpin. Mompou died at age 94 on June 30, 1987, and his popularity only increased following his death.

    Download Mompou’s the compete piano sheet music from our Library.

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    Film & TV Music

    EBB TIDE (with sheet music download)

    “Ebb Tide” is a popular song, written in 1953 by the lyricist Carl Sigman and composer Robert Maxwell. The song’s build up is to illustrate the ocean waves coming in and out to and from the shores, due to the ebb tides. The first three notes are identical to the first three notes of the Erroll Garner song “Misty” (1954). This song is a key part of the original soundtrack of the film Sweet Bird of Youth

    EBB TIDE (with sheet music download)

    Download this sheet music at the Sheet Music Library (pdf)

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    (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Read the full article here)


    First the tide rushes in
    Plants a kiss on the shore
    Then rolls out to sea
    And the sea is very still once more
    So I rush to your side
    Like the oncoming tide
    With one burning thought
    Will your arms open wide
    At last we’re face to face
    And as we kiss through an embrace
    I can tell, I, I can feel
    You are love, you are real
    Really mine in the rain
    In the dark, in the sun
    Like the tide at its ebb
    I’m at peace in the web of your arms
    Ebb tide

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    Did you know?

    A History of Stanley Kubrick in 21 Tracks

    A History of Stanley Kubrick in 21 Tracks

    In general, Kubrick enjoyed listening to music – his wife Christiane had, in fact, mentioned in an interview that:

    “He was addicted to music, he played it always, all day long. He worked with music, … classical and the pop songs and he liked jazz music. You name it, a very catholic taste in music.”

    He’d listen to a wide range of music, at times, and select those pieces that excited him and felt appropriate for the scene – according to ever-so-reliable Wikipedia, it seems that in his last six films, he used music from existing sources, rather than commissioning a soundtrack to be composed – and the majority of this music was classical music. He justified this decision in an interview with Michael Ciment, saying:

    “However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms. Why use music which is less good when there is such a multitude of great orchestral music available from the past and from our own time? When you are editing a film, it’s very helpful to be able to try out different pieces of music to see how they work with the scene…Well, with a little more care and thought, these temporary tracks can become the final score.”

    Please, read this interesting article about “A History of Stanley Kubrick in 21 Tracks“.

    You can find Kubrick’s sheet music in our Library.

    kubrick free sheet music & scores pdf A  History  of  Stanley  Kubrick  in  21  Tracks
    Did you know?

    Films about musicians (with sheet music download)

    In 2018, we enjoyed the movie Bohemian Rhapsody,a biographical musical film about Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the British rock band Queen. The film received numerous awards (including four awards at the 91st Academy Awards).

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    films about musicians free sheet music & pdf scores download

    Now, we can watch the movie about another musician’s life, Elton John. Rocketman is a biographical musical film based on the life of musician Elton John, directed by Dexter Fletcher and written by Lee Hall, The film is titled after John’s 1972 song “Rocket Man“.

    You can download both musicians’ sheet music at this Library.

    Films about musicians (witn sheet music to download)

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    Did you know?

    Ryuichi Sakamoto interview

    His Sheet Music is available in our Library

    free sheet music
    A view to the future: Musician Ryuichi Sakamoto is a champion of technological innovation, but laments the fact that few young people think to pay for music. | JAMES HADFIELD

    Ryuichi Sakamoto offers his thoughts on politics, Japan and how his music will change ‘post-cancer’.

    Ryuichi Sakamoto interview

    “The Professor” is back in town. Last weekend, Ryuichi Sakamoto took the stage at Tokyo Opera City for the debut concert of the Tohoku Youth Orchestra, a 105-strong ensemble of young musicians from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which counts him as its musical director.

    Though he isn’t inclined to make a fuss about these things, the occasion also had personal significance for the 64-year-old composer and musician, a longtime New York resident. It was the first concert Sakamoto had played since undergoing treatment for throat cancer in 2014, canceling all engagements in what must be one of the music industry’s busiest work schedules. As he later remarked, it was the first extensive time off he’d had for 40 years.

    “It’s the closest I’ve come to death during my lifetime,” he tells The Japan Times, speaking the day after the Tohoku Youth Orchestra concert. “I feel differently since I came back from that place, compared to before. I want to capture the mood I have now, post-cancer, in my music.”

    Sakamoto’s unobtrusive return to the limelight was heralded by the soundtracks that he composed for Yoji Yamada’s “Nagasaki: Memories of My Son” and, in collaboration with Carsten Nicolai (aka Alva Noto), for Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “The Revenant.” (The latter film, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination, opens in Japan on April 22.)

    Now there’s also the prospect of a new album of original material, his first since 2009’s “Out of Noise.”

    “I have a lot of sketches and ideas, but when you don’t use them they get stale,” he says. “You’re changing every day, right? Your curiosities and ambitions change, your ear changes, the music you like changes — and the music you want to make, too … I’m planning to begin work on an album when I get back to New York, but I think I’m probably going to start from scratch.”

    Prior to that, Tokyo audiences can catch Sakamoto again next weekend, when he presides over a three-day festival at Yebisu Garden Place, to mark the 10th anniversary of his Commmons label. Rather than perform a headlining set himself, he’ll be playing support roles throughout the weekend: sitting in with some of the musicians, hosting discussions and providing piano accompaniment for communal rajio taisō (radio calisthenics) sessions with the crowd.

    Sakamoto established Commmons in 2006 with the rather lofty goal of creating “a place where new relationships can be built between the music industry, the audience, artists and creators.” In addition to releasing music by artists such as Boredoms, Sotaisei Riron and Kotringo, the label has provided a platform for its founder’s prolific musical output, as well as a series of scholarly journals.

    One of Sakamoto’s current areas of inquiry is traditional Japanese music, once a blind spot in his otherwise rich musical vocabulary. He studied composition and ethnomusicology at Tokyo University of the Arts, leading his Yellow Magic Orchestra bandmate Yukihiro Takahashi to nickname him “Professor” — a moniker that stuck. Yet the musical system employed by noh theater remains something of a mystery.

    “I could understand Bach, but not noh,” he says with a laugh. “It has a 600-year history — it’s very deep.”

    Sakamoto has been based in New York since 1990, and seems to value the perspective that life as an expatriate has given him on his native country; his increasing appreciation of Japanese performing arts such as noh, kabuki and gagaku is one example.

    “When I lived in Japan, I only noticed the bad aspects of the country,” he says. “I didn’t really like Japan then, but when I moved overseas I was able to appreciate the good side more. The quality of the craftsmanship, the temples and Japanese gardens. … As I’ve got older, I’ve started to appreciate the precious parts of Japanese culture that you don’t find in other countries.”

    When he first relocated to the States, Sakamoto was that rarest of things: a Japanese celebrity with global clout. Both in his solo work and with YMO, the techno-pop trio he formed with Takahashi and Haruomi Hosono in 1978, he had positioned himself at the vanguard of synthesizer- and sample-based music.

    But it was his movie soundtracks that clinched his international renown, including for Nagisa Oshima’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” (in which he co-starred opposite the late David Bowie) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor,” which won him an Academy Award in 1988.

    Sakamoto’s subsequent career may not have yielded such boundary-breaking music, but in other ways it has been awfully prescient. He began to use environmentally friendly packaging for his albums in the early 1990s, and was powering his tours on renewable energy long before Radiohead took up the idea. He was also an early adopter of Internet technology, staging his first live online broadcast of a concert in 1995.

    “Internet speeds were still really slow then,” he recalls with a laugh. “We’d call it a concert, but you were basically watching static images that changed once every 10 seconds. The audio was all choppy, too.”

    While Japanese labels were enjoying record-breaking CD sales during the late ’90s, Sakamoto had already anticipated how online distribution would upend the music industry. He lobbied for changes in the way that copyright licensing body JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers) handled music rights online, and cautioned the retail behemoths that their boom times were about to end.

    “I was telling the Tower Records people in 1996 or 1997: ‘(CD shops) are going to disappear, you need to think about it,’ ” he says. “I thought they’d be able to get in early and make something like what we have with the iTunes Store now, but they couldn’t seem to do it.”

    After spending his career championing technological innovation, Sakamoto is a little rueful about where things have ended up. In a world of YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music, few young people would think to pay to listen to music. Life isn’t much easier for session musicians: Why hire a band for a TV or film soundtrack when you can use sophisticated software synthesizers instead?

    “There are still young people hoping to become professional musicians, but it’s so tough now, they’d be better off giving up,” he says. “I’d tell them to get a different job and play music as a hobby.”

    “Everybody’s hurting now, whatever the genre,” he continues. “The only people making money are DJs.”

    Sakamoto has a talent for statements like this. Famously outspoken, in recent years he’s lent his voice to campaigns on issues including the relocation of the U.S. Futenma air base in Okinawa, government restrictions on free speech, and the police crackdown on all-night dance clubs.

    But he’s most closely associated with environmental causes, notably his advocacy of renewable energy and staunch opposition to nuclear power. Following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011, Sakamoto quickly emerged as an influential figurehead in the anti-nuclear movement. In 2012, he organized the No Nukes festival at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, inviting Kraftwerk and a roster of well-known Japanese artists.

    As a veteran of Japan’s late-1960s student protest movement, which he joined when he was still a high-school student, he was comfortable amid the demonstrations that galvanized the country during 2011 and 2012.

    “With the demos we held in the ’60s, everyone was wearing helmets and masks, holding poles and fighting with riot police — it was totally different,” he says. “I think the way we do it now is better. Anyone can take part.”

    He expresses regret about the political retrenchment that has occurred since the election of Shinzo Abe’s LDP administration in December 2012: “For a couple of years there, I hoped that genuine democracy might take root in Japan … I felt there were more people who were openly speaking their minds, without being influenced by others.”

    Does he worry a lot about Japan’s future?

    “I do, I do. One of the unfortunate things that’s happened in the three or so years since Abe came to power is that Japanese people are going on about how brilliant Japan is: ‘This is great! This place is amazing!’ There are too many TV programs and campaigns like that, and I’m getting a little sick of it. It’s fine if people from outside the country praise you like that, but to say it yourself — things like ‘Cool Japan’ — I don’t think that’s ‘cool.’ ”

    Being one of the country’s most internationally renowned cultural icons, Sakamoto may seem like an obvious ambassador for the government’s campaign to promote Japanese soft power overseas. So it’s surprising when he says that he hasn’t even been approached by the apparatchiks behind Cool Japan.

    Maybe it’s because the campaign originates within the halls of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry — the main cheerleader for Japan’s nuclear power industry.

    “I hate them, and I think the feeling’s mutual,” he says.

    The organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics can also strike Sakamoto’s name from their invitation list. Although he composed and conducted the music for the opening ceremony at the Barcelona Games in 1992, he says that he wouldn’t be interested in taking part when the event returns to Japan.

    Asked why, he reels off a list of the problems that continue to afflict the Tohoku region: the tens of thousands of people still living in temporary housing, the nuclear disaster evacuees unable to return home, the ongoing problems with cleanup efforts at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

    “It’s not ‘under control’ at all, is it?” he says, echoing the words used by Abe in his speech to the International Olympic Committee in 2013. “They should be making that their first priority.”

    For Sakamoto, the way to end Japan’s current malaise is through encouraging fresh thinking — though he concedes that this is difficult in “a society where it’s hard to say things that others don’t agree with.”

    “You won’t get original thinking in an environment like that. The ideas won’t come, and the talented people will just end up going overseas,” he says as we wrap things up.

    “I’ve been saying this for a long time,” he concludes, “but if you take Sony, which is a company that really represents Japan, and compare it to Akira Kurosawa — just one person — Kurosawa is probably worth more worldwide. A lot of people don’t seem to get that.”

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