Ryuichi Sakamoto, Japanese composer, died at 71

Influential Japanese electronic music pianist, composer and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto has died aged 71. Kyodo News reports.

Sakamoto had first revealed a diagnosis of throat cancer in 2014, which had gone into remission after successful treatment. In 2021, he announced he was battling rectal cancer, and a 2022 update shared that the cancer had reached stage 4.

Ryuichi Sakamoto was born on January 17, 1952, in Tokyo, Japan, and studied at the National University of Fine Arts and Music, Tokyo, where he earned a master’s degree in music composition. He was an early adopter of synthesizers and his experimentation in early works, particularly with the Roland MC-8 microcomposer and TR-808 drum machine, became fundamental to contemporary electronic music.

As a solo artist and member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, the electropop trio formed with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, Ryuichi Sakamoto pioneered early incarnations of synth pop as well as various offshoots of electronic music. The band released their self-titled debut album in 1978, months away from Sakamoto’s first solo album, thousand knives.

After YMO disbanded in 1984, Sakamoto rose to a new level of international fame as the composer of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 film, the last emperor, for which he won an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe. He went on to mark the 1990s The sheltered sky1993 little buddhaand more recently, 2015 The ghost. In 1983, he also played alongside David Bowie in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

Outside of his film work, Sakamoto cultivated an extensive solo catalog that included collaborations with the likes of David Byrne, Iggy Pop, and Brian Wilson. In recent years, his production has begun to reflect and directly confront his medical prognosis, especially in the years 2017. asynchronous. In December 2022, Sakamoto performed at a livestreamed event to launch his twentieth album, 12which he shared “might be the last time you see me play this way.”

True to the motto “Everything can be music”, Sakamoto conducted the improvised artwork “Glass” in 2016 with musician Alva Noto using Philip Johnson’s modernist architectural marvel, Glass House, as a tangible instrument. His 2017 documentary Coda married his passion for environmental activism with musical experimentation by setting the composer in the Arctic to record among melting snow. He also founded the More Trees project dedicated to reforestation and carbon offsetting.

In 2022, Sakamoto said he was committed to “making music until my last moment, like Bach and Debussy that I adore”. Earlier in 2019, he shared, “Music, work and life all have a beginning and an end. What I want to do now is music freed from the constraints of time.


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