Music Sounds The Way It Does Because Of Ryuichi Sakamoto

Music Sounds The Way It Does Because Of Ryuichi Sakamoto

The story goes that Ryuichi Sakamoto loved this Japanese restaurant in Mary Hill but hated the music played there. So he did what any generous and talented generation of composers would have done: offered to create a playlist for Chef. Since then, this story has become something of a myth (that is, it has become somewhat viral). But he wasn't a crotchety curmudgeon with a hatred of Spotify, so to speak. He was an artist contemplating a room and contemplating how music could fill it in a more thoughtful way.

The year I met Sakamoto in 2018, he told me that he only listened to music in his old age. He spoke of it as the natural evolution of things, in which melody and melodic compulsion are inevitably discarded in favor of coarseness and melodic ambiguity. It can be assumed that "ambient" is synonymous with "noise" or "cool lo-fi beat". But what fascinated Sakamoto, his modern form, raises an important question: what is the relationship between sound and the environment?

Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away last week at the age of 71. He was not only a composer, but also a famous pianist, political figure and, in his time, a very famous pop star. While he has never been a household name here in the United States, little in contemporary music does not reflect the influence of Sakamoto's vast and ever-evolving career spanning four decades.

I am very saddened by his death. For those who knew him, he was loved in New York. In the West Village and the Lower East Side, I saw him leave the theater several times. She waved and waved and smiled back, then moved on to the next one.

© Photo by Alex Resident

Even when he had health problems, Sakamoto never stopped being productive. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 and shortly after writing his masterpiece, which ended with a cure . As a production, this is one of Sakamoto's finest productions, even in canon defined by technical brilliance. As a series of compositions, this is his darkest, longest meditation on death, which alternates between haunting piano versions and haunting drone.

Earlier this year, he released his latest album 12 , recorded between 2021 and spring 2022 after being diagnosed with cancer for the second time. A dozen new instrumentals leaned heavily on ambient tones with leaner, tighter work and occasional breaks from Async . Melody for piano. Each song did not have a title, but was given the date it was written instead: A Living Record, Day by Day.

But for many, Sakamoto's most famous work is characterized by suspense, idiosyncrasy, and humor. Publicly, he was not as popular as the keyboardist for Harumi Hosono's electronic pop trio Yellow Magic Orchestra in the 1970s. Sakamoto's polyrhythmic groove, which inspired the band to recognition outside of Tokyo, inspired her high cheeks and hair that made her hair stand on end. Early hip hop owes much of its sound to the group's innovative management practices and cycles. And without the genius of Sakamoto with the Moog and Roland TR-808 synthesizers, there would be no American or British new wave movement.

Sakamoto's solo recordings were also significant and continued to inaugurate his nascent musical equipment. He invented synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines; Although his fame was limited to Japan at the time, his work has had an impact on pop, electronic music and hip hop all over the world. He has worked with David Byrne, Iggy Pop and Thomas Dolby. Often cited by music historians, the B-2's "Riot in Lagos" jam is an example of the massive expansion that beats can bring to popular music. ( The Guardian called it the sixth biggest event in dance music history.)

But if you listen to Riots in Lagos today, you will hear an influence expressed not only in music, but also in artistic life, expressed in honks and bloopers: video games, computer interfaces, ringtones (of course, this sets many Nokias of the early years). Appreciation of Sakamoto's work has risen over the past decade due to the shrinking internet environment. The music of Yellow Magic Orchestra, along with other contemporary artists, has been retroactively labeled "urban pop", a style of Japanese Tumblr/YouTube music reviewed in the 1970s and 1980s that is not naturally associated with Soul Kin.

Although it would be easy to dismiss Sakamoto as a vocal futurist for his contribution to the development of musical technology, he has always been preoccupied with classical forms of media. As a teenager, he was obsessed with the work of Claude Debussy. Per year In the 1990s and early 2000s, Sakamoto continued to experiment with pop music, but became popular through film soundtracks. A film buff himself, he moved to New York and fell in love with the work of some of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers: De Palma, Almodóvar, Iñárritu and Bartolucci, whose 1987 film The Last Emperor won Sakamoto an Oscar. Best Original Award. Soundtrack

His most famous film composition may be Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, co-written with David Bowie for the film of the same name (in which Sakamoto made a brief appearance). He later re-released it as "Forbidden Colors" for David Sylvian. He later arranged the song for an instrumental trio and performed it at the final public concert. All three versions are excellent and show how Sakamoto can write songs without boundaries, or perhaps he is musically talented in all areas.

I spoke to him before the release of a short documentary about his life in 2018. She was too shy for the former pop icon, whose face appeared on the covers of many albums and magazines. (He liked the movie Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda because "it wasn't too long.") I had a plastic recorder and a phone as backup and kept playing them during the interview.

We chatted about the film over coffee in a sleepy West Village restaurant and then explained its broad musical philosophy. At first, to be honest, the conversation seemed somewhat warm to me: people, the natural world, the relationship between them. But as he continued, I began to understand what he meant: the relationship was strained. He said that all music is artificial. People are made from natural materials. Essentially, art is a form of abuse of nature. This thought tormented him.

He still couldn't take it. He acknowledged that there was a conflict. "But I want to make my voice, make my music ... it's a real passion." If not, how will he live?

Sakamoto has always followed this passion. His insatiable curiosity and never-ending work ethic have brought us success, from the techno-pop of his world-favorite Yellow Magic Orchestra to the playlists he created for the Murray Hill restaurant. Sakamoto cut early composers to make the music sound the way it sounds today.

As a film, Koda is less concerned with the scale of Sakamoto's work and the significance of his philosophical themes about technology and naturalism. At one point in the documentary, sitting in front of the Steinway Grand, Sakamoto explains that his piano music was only made possible by the Industrial Revolution. The combination of wood and string and technology make music a "great force" for making an instrument.

In the film, "objects taken from nature are shaped by human art, the dominance of civilization." "Nature is forced to form."

This means that this form is temporary and in time everything will return to its normal form. These tools, whether digital or organic, are just tools, existence is a temporary state, if we are happy with our time on earth, we can use these things to create something lasting. Ryuichi Sakamoto chooses his words.

Kevin Gwen is a writer for New Waves and editor for The Verge. He is a former GQ editor.

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