Ryuichi Sakamoto


Commmons • 2023

Oscar, Grammy, Golden Globe – all well and good, but even the highest award pales into insignificance when confronted with personal strokes of fate. Celebrated pianist and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto had to learn this the hard way when he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Frustrated by his own mortality, Sakamoto began to keep a kind of audio diary during his two and a half years of therapy. These minimalist, raw compositional sketches for piano and synthesiser bear the date of their creation as their title and, as spontaneous snapshots, provide both deep and intimate insights into Sakamoto’s inner life. 

Depending on the mood of the day, it sounds wistful or contemplative, expresses sadness or rapture. But there is always this withdrawn dignity. Instead of triggering great emotions with theatrical bombast, Sakamoto reflects both upon his own transience and his artistic legacy with these subtle fragments. In the case of »12«, there does seem to be some truth to the popular phrase that true art often comes from suffering. Even and especially difficult phases of life can evidently increase productivity and be harnessed artistically. That the 71-year-old wants to continue this sound diary is therefore good news. 

It only became known after this review went to press that Ryuichi Sakamoto died of cancer on March 28, 2023.