The work Ryuichi Sakamoto has done in soundtracks since the ’80s seems like enough for several lifetimes, so it’s only natural that he should be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent, Belgium, which take place October 19-20. The most recent highlight in Sakamoto’s soundtrack career has been the music for The Revenant, but his CV goes all the way back to his 1983 work on Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, starring David Bowie (in which Sakamoto also appeared as an actor). Over the years, Sakamoto has crafted idiosyncratic soundscapes for everything from Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor to Almodovar’s High Heels.
Most crucially, Sakamoto’s work has deftly blended orchestral and electronic instrumentation, creating a highly original amalgam that made his music stand out no matter what the context. And of course, he’s also had a long, rich career as a performer and composer, reaching all the way back to his days with pioneering Japanese synth-pop outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra. At the World Soundtrack Awards, a selection of Sakamoto soundtrack music will be played by the Brussels Philharmonic conducted by Dirk Brossé. The WSA is also crowdfunding an album featuring the best of Sakamoto’s soundtrack work as realized by Brossé and the Philharmonic, so you can become a part of the process of honoring this gifted composer.
What does Leonardo DiCaprio fighting for survival in the frozen wilderness in the 18th century have to do with the celebrated electronic composer Ryuichi Sakamoto? Funny you should ask. The aforementioned scenario serves as the basis for the upcoming film The Revenant, which was directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu of Birdman fame. The director seemingly surmised that this sort of setting required a really evocative sonic setting, and wisely engaged the talents of Sakamoto for the film’s score. This marks the first time Sakamoto has released new music since his recent treatments for throat cancer, and that should be cause for celebration in and of itself.
But Sakamoto isn’t working alone on this project. His partner on the score is Alva Noto, who has worked with Sakamoto many times over the last several years. Add the participation of composer Bryce Dessner to the mix, and you’ve got a pretty impressive cast already without even getting into the actual actors in the film. The soundtrack album will be released by Milan Records on Dec. 25th, the same date the movie makes its New York and L.A. premieres (with widespread showings to follow on January 8).
A year after he was diagnosed with throat cancer, legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto says he is thinking about returning to work after taking a self-imposed sabbatical. In a rare posting to his website, Sakamoto, whose massive list of credits include membership in iconic ’70s electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra to acting and composing the 1983 film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, recapped the past year that required him to pull out of all projects and focus on his health. He apologized for inconveniencing his fans and musical partners, adding that he “never felt more loved.”
“One year has passed since and thanks to everyone I am in great shape. I am thinking about returning to work,” he wrote. “For the time being I intend to prioritize composing work that I can do from home and so, for my first job, I will be responsible for the music of Haha to Kuraseba (Living With My Mother), a film by the great Japanese director Yoji Yamada. I will be refraining from performing live for now.”
“Forgive me if this sounds corny, but the illness brought me to a realization, which I am thankful for,” Sakamoto concluded. “It is truly a sign from nature or heaven. Taking this sign, I will make sure to avoid my old habits and treat my last days left with the utmost care.”
Last summer music fans around the world were saddened when highly influential Japanese composer/musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose lengthy list of credits include membership in iconic ’70s electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra to acting and composing the 1983 film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, announced that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer and was planning to take a break from all professional activities.
“After much thought and consideration,” Sakamoto wrote on his website, “I have decided to concentrate on treating it. I deeply regret causing so many people considerable inconvenience. However, the first wealth is health, and hence this bitter decision.”
Though Sakamoto hasn’t shared any health updates with his followers, it has been announced that an improvised live performance he participated in July 2013 at The Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media’s ten-year anniversary with Taylor Deupree and Tokyo duo Illuha (Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Date) will be released on Deupree’s 12k imprint on January 27.
According to a missive, the musicians who had never played together before “were taken aback by the level of listening and restraint that flowed between them. The audience sat in a breathless silence, the music offering a respite from the thick July air.”
Have a listen to the utterly gorgeous “Movement, 3” from the album below.