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Ryuichi Sakamoto

When Ryuichi Sakamoto was a high schooler in Tokyo, he had to ride a commuter train to get to class. The passengers were always crammed on, trapping one another between stray limbs and contorted torsos. Unable to move, all the teenage Sakamoto could do was listen. He amused himself by counting the sounds the train made, identifying more than 10 that he would listen out for every morning.

Close listening is a habit that has carried Sakamoto through nearly 70 years of musical exploration, each decade leading him in new directions. He was born in 1952, the year John Cage composed 4′33″. When he was a toddler, he was introduced to the piano, an instrument he would go on to examine from many Cageian angles. As the ’70s bled into the ’80s, he segued from an ethnomusicology and composition degree to the role of keyboardist and songwriter for Yellow Magic Orchestra, the proto-synthpop group led by Haruomi Hosono. In the solo career years that followed, Sakamoto’s embrace of a new wave of electronic instruments led to fruitful experiments in fusing global genres, which in turn made way for close studies of classical impressionism. Many times over Sakamoto’s sonic path has leapt forward then looped back on itself, forever telling the present something of both its past and future.

The how of composition is as important to Sakamoto as what he makes, and more often than not his creative process starts with improvisation. “You have to open your ears all the time because anything could happen unexpectedly,” he has said of his approach. “Anything can be music.” A wrong note could be the right way into a fresh musical idea. The sounds of a city at night might inform the architecture of a new album. In fact, it was a building that inspired Glass, Sakamoto’s 2016 live improvised composition with longtime friend Alva Noto. Specifically, Philip Johnson’s modernist Glass House, which the American architect built in Connecticut in the late ’40s to live in. As part of their performance, Sakamoto and Noto played Johnson’s glass and steel home like an instrument, sweeping rubber mallets over its contact mic’d surfaces.

The relationship between space and sound, how the one reflects and refracts the other, is something that Sakamoto has also explored in his collaborations with visual artists. In All Star Video (1984), his digital compositions were augmented by Nam June Paik’s hyperactive video art. In 1999, he premiered his multimedia opera LIFE, for which he made Shiro Takatani his visual director. Expanding on LIFE’s themes of symbiosis and evolution, Sakamoto and Takatani went on to produce several ambient installations together, which combined art objects, audio, and video. In 2018, Sakamoto’s various art project collaborations were brought together for the first time in Seoul, as part of a retrospective exhibition titled LIFE, LIFE.

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Radio & Podcasts

A Tribute To Ryuichi Sakamoto & Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou

Read "A Tribute To Ryuichi Sakamoto & Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou" reviewed by Ludovico Granvassu

This week we dedicate our show to two artists who recently passed away, and who--even though very far apart in terms of geographical origins and life trajectories--shared a devotion to beauty, elegance and originality: Ryuichi Sakamoto and Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou.Playlist Ben Allison “Mondo Jazz Theme (feat. Ted Nash & Pyeng Threadgill)" 0:00 Ryuichi Sakamoto “Tango" Smoochy (Milan) 0:16 Host Talks 4:49 Ryuichi Sakamoto, Cesária Evora, Caetano Veloso “E Preciso Perdoar" Red Hot + Río (Verve) 6:23 Host Talks ...


Ryuichi Sakamoto: Naturally Born to Seek Diversity

Read "Ryuichi Sakamoto: Naturally Born to Seek Diversity" reviewed by Nenad Georgievski

Japanese composer and New York resident Ryuichi Sakamoto has had a career unlike anyone else. For more than 40 restless years, since the days of Yellow Magic Orchestra, he has been a musician that many other musicians have followed closely and probably no other popular musician has had a broader or a deeper catalog. To experience his music is to experience the world. He is an “outernational" and that has informed his borderless vision of music. Diversity and ...


Stephen Nomura Schible: I wanted to make an intimate portrait of Ryuichi Sakamoto

Read "Stephen Nomura Schible: I wanted to make an intimate portrait of Ryuichi Sakamoto" reviewed by Nenad Georgievski

Japanese composer, pianist, and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto has always resisted an easy definition or description. Taken into account his illustrious and vast output which has spanned over different decades and fashions, he has been at the center and outer fringes of shaping contemporary music. For many, he is one of the greatest exponents of modern music and always on the cutting edge of music. Sakamoto is responsible for a plethora of important and intriguing cross-cultural explorations and has ...

Album Review

Ryuichi Sakamoto: async Remodels

Read "async Remodels" reviewed by Nenad Georgievski

There is a legend about the vigorous dance of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and creative renewal. This endless and vigorous dance is called “Tandava," and with it Shiva destroys the world. With each new cycle, out of the scattered elements, a new world is reconstructed. This dance and act is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution. In a similar manner, what most remixers have been doing to songs or pieces of music can be ...

Album Review

Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto: Glass

Read "Glass" reviewed by Nenad Georgievski

It's a rare occasion these days when a certain album manages to shake quietly the foundation of what music is and what it can be. It's very difficult to position an album that breaks all its precedents through an approach that blends a live performance and improvisation. Glass is the latest collaboration between composer Sakamoto and the German electronic artist Carsten Nicolai who best known under the moniker Alva Noto. 16 years since their debut joint effort “Vrioon" now arrives ...

Live Review

Ryuichi Sakamoto at the Vic Theatre in Chicago

Read "Ryuichi Sakamoto at the Vic Theatre in Chicago" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Ryuichi SakamotoVic TheatreChicago, ILOctober 26, 2010 Mysticism and minimalism were the dual themes for the Ryuichi Sakamoto concert at the historic Vic Theatre in Chicago on Tuesday night the 26th of October 2010. Sakamoto stopped at this venue as a part of a rare North American tour to promote his dual CD set Playing the Piano/Out of Noise on the Decca Label. The concert opened with ambient electronic and nature sounds ...

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Performance / Tour

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Playing the Piano/out of Noise (2010)

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Playing the Piano/out of Noise (2010)

Source: Something Else!

By Mark Saleski The complete list of collaborators attached to pianist/composer/modern day Renaissance man Ryuichi Sakamoto could easily fill the space reserved for a full-length review. The short list includes Brian Wilson, Thomas Dolby, Iggy Pop, David Sylvain, Robbie Robertson, and Daniel Bernard Roumain. His film score resume, while somewhat more brief, is still equally impressive, including: The Little Buddha, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Wild Palms, The Last Emperor, and The Sheltering Sky. With the release of the double CD ...



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson




async Remodels

Milan Records





Summer Nerves







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