David Toop on Ryuichi Sakamoto

02023-04-21 | History | 4 comments

“I don’t want to express myself as the image of Japan,” he told me, “big power, big money, technologies.” Then in a different conversation he spoke against the arbitrary division of the globe into East and West. “Where is the edge?” he asked. “My music is much more melting. All the different things are layered at the same time. It represents a sense of Utopia.” And now? Utopia, what can we say, other than its enclosed certainty is unattainable, but music is never really about certainty, only possibility, and in possibility there is a way to live, a positivity that Ryuichi Sakamoto never abandoned, even when dying.

Life, Life: David Toop remembers Ryuichi Sakamoto – The Wire

Writer and musician David Toop pays tribute to his friend and collaborator Ryuichi Sakamoto, who died on 28 March. Lovely article. 

While you are reading the article, listen to LIFE LIFE from the beautiful album async, with David Sylvian reading from Arseny Tarkovsky.

 A French critic, he told me, disliked his Beauty album because there wasn’t enough Japanese music in it.

I wonder whether a French musician playing American music would be accused of not having enough French music in it. 


  1. Steve

    >I wonder whether a French musician playing American music would be accused of not having enough French music in it.

    I suspect this French critic is one of these who are “purists.”

    Speaking of “American Music” …

    These are the critics that imagine themselves to be the “gatekeepers of tradition” and IMO it is this group of people who are largely responsible for the ossification of jazz as a genre. For jazz to be “Jazz” (capitol “J”) it has to come from the era 1955-1965 or sound like it did. In this way jazz turns into a museum piece, not a vibrant art form. Students are taught to play only transcriptions of solos from Miles, Bird, Coltrane (pre “A Love Supreme” era) , or Dizzy.

    The same might be said for Flamenco as a genre too. There is a window of acceptability (in DSP we talk of an apodization function**) of musical parameters which defines the genre as “this thing.”

    Any “innovations” or evolution beyond that are just viewed as “tainting” the genre. But Flamenco is folk music isn’t it? Folk music is always evolving, because folks are always evolving.

    Seems like the argument of the French critic is self-defeating: I have seen Sakamoto play Bach, and he played it really, really great. Probably “too German” though eh?

    ** the mathematical analogy is apt: everywhere outside the function interval the function is zero valued. Likewise the imagined pure genre includes zero evolution(s) outside the interval in order to be considered … “capitol J” Jazz or whatever genre you wanna talk about.

  2. Y.

    Thank you for this post. I enjoyed listening to, Beauty. There are two Okinawan folk songs that I am familiar with and I loved Sakamoto’s take on both. Fresh sounding and joyful. Finding Barber’s, “Adagio for Strings” at the end was a complete surprise. One of my favorite classical pieces.

    • ottmar

      Looking at the titles I am guessing the Okinawan folk songs are tracks three and ten?
      I remember buying the album as soon as it was released in 1989, because I followed Sakamoto’s work and also because I heard about it from a guitarist from Santa Fe who went to New York to play on the recording. You can hear him play guitar on track #3, for example.
      The mix of different styles and the astounding caliber of musicians (Pino Palladino and so many others – see all of the names at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_(Ryuichi_Sakamoto_album) is truly amazing.

      • Y.

        I’m glad that the Japanese version of the album was offered so that I could listen to, Adagio. I had no idea there were two versions of the album released.


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