Ryuichi Sakamoto –
He passed away at the end of March from cancer. Yesterday his estate released a playlist on his Spotify account that he had assembled in his last days, specifically to be played at his funeral. As I expected, it was a creative combination of classical, ambient, electronic, and a touch of pop. It included some Japanese music but none of his own. I read an interview with him a couple of years ago where he said he never listens to his own music. He said when it comes on somewhere he is, it embarrasses him.
That, as much as anything, is why he was such a fascinating character. I realize this might be a bit of a niche posting, but for those who knew his music, he was an essential part of our lives. At least his art was. His impact on what we would call “techno” is indisputable. He may even have actually coined the term. I admit I am a fan of techno/ambient/electronic music as much as classical, and I find it soothing to the mind. I am also a huge fan of film scores.
One thing many people, even fans of Mr. Sakamoto, don’t realize is how impactful his film score and soundtrack work has been. His first, and maybe best, work was Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, which interestingly starred one David Bowie. My Sakamoto also plays Captain Yanoi, one of the officers of the prison camp Bowie’s “Jack Celliers”, a British Soldier ends up in during World War Two. They fight against each other, and among other guards and inmates, for influence while developing a sort of respect, then perhaps even love. I would be lying if I said it ended on an upbeat note, but it was an interesting time.
He also did the scores for some other well-known films, like “The Last Emperor”, “The Revenant”, “The Sheltering Sky,” and the film version of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, among a slew of others. In some pretty apparent ways, his career parallels that of his arguably more well-known Western counterpart, Trent Reznor. Initially known for almost avant-garde music, he has really made a career out of film scores.
In any case, RIP Sakamoto-San. You are already missed.