Piano Works and the Beauty of Sounds

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Playing the Piano and Out of Noise (Decca, 20100

Ryuichi Sakamoto has a new double album out which includes Playing the Piano and Out of Noise . Ryuichi Sakamoto is one of the most brilliant musicians to have come out of Japan in recent decades. He’s been involved in highly influential projects and was one of the leaders of the legendary techno band Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Sakamoto is also well known for his award-winning soundtracks for directors such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Oliver Stone, Pedro Almodovar and Brian De Palma. His latest work is a stunning double CD that shows the multiple sides of Sakamoto.

The CD Playing the Piano is self explanatory. Sakamoto shows us his solo piano side, which is heavily influenced by French Impressionism. He has selected some of the favorite pieces from his extensive repertory, including ‘Amore’, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence’ , ‘A Flower Is Not A Flower’ , ‘The Sheltering Sky’ , ‘Tamago 2004’ , ‘The Last Emperor’ , ‘Tibetan Dance’ , ‘Thousand Knives’ , ‘Riot In Lagos’ , ‘Reversing’ , ‘Mizu No Naka No Bagatelle’ and ‘Bolerish’. Sakamoto has reconfigured these well known compositions as solo piano cuts. “Debussy was my hero,” says Sakamoto. “Asian music heavily influenced Debussy, and Debussy heavily influenced me. So the music goes around the world and comes full circle.”

The second album Out of Noise focuses on Sakamoto’s interests in ambience, natural sounds (such as the endangered glaciers of the Arctic Circle) and the musics of the past (Medieval Europe) and the present (cutting edge electronica). Sakamoto muses about what is music and what is noise. “As soon as you make a piano sound, it’s vanishing,” Sakamoto explains, “vanishing into noise. You can’t tell when it becomes noise, when it’s gone. That’s the area I’m interested in.”

On Out of Noise, Sakamoto goes beyond musical instruments and explores the sounds of the environment. “We are surrounded by the sound of the environment,” he explains. “That’s music too, really.”

A committed environmentalist, Sakamoto is very concerned about the effect of global warming on the Arctic. He traveled to Greenland with the Cape Farewell Project, an organization that pioneers the cultural response to climate change, leading a series of expeditions into the Arctic that combine science, art and education to communicate on a human scale the urgency of the global climate challenge.

In Greenland, Sakamoto recorded under the surface of the water of the Arctic Sea, and on the surface of the glacial ice. “The local Inuits told us their folklore,” he recalls. “According to legend the highest goddess lives under the deep sea. When I recorded the sound of the wind on the glacier, it was like I was hearing the voice of the goddess.”

Playing the Piano and Out of Noise are two essential recordings in the career of one of Japan’s most influential musicians.

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