Japan’s deaf composer: neither a composer nor deaf

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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14th February, 2014 Leave a Comment

Mamoru Samuragochi was known as Japan’s “modern-day Beethoven”. Born in Hiroshima, child of bomb survivors, he won acclaim and fame for his composition despite and because of his deafness.

Recently, however, doubt has been cast on his authorship of popular works such as the symphony “Hiroshima”.

He apologised earlier this month for “betraying and disappointing his fans by doing something inexcusable”, saying he had used a “ghostwriter”.

It has emerged that his contribution amounted to creating “images” on which the music was based. Moreover, it appears that he is not deaf, either.

In an editorial, the Japan Times bemoans a “shameful deception”.

The deception by Samuragochi is twofold. First, he claimed that he composed pieces when they were actually written by someone else. Second, Niigaki, a lecturer at Toho Gakuen School of Music, cast doubt on Samuragochi’s claim that he is deaf. At the news conference, Niigaki said that he first met Samuragochi in 1996 when the latter was 33 years old. According to Samuragochi’s autobiography, he lost hearing in his left ear when he was 30 and became fully deaf when he was 35 years old. But Niiigaki said that he never felt that Samuragochi was deaf and that he carried on normal conversations with him. He explained that he often composed melody fragments based on ideas provided by Samuragochi, played them on the piano and recorded them. He then let Samuragochi listen to them and choose from among them, then he composed a bigger piece based on the chosen melodies.

Because Samuragochi’s claim to be deaf was a major reason why his music sold so well, it amounts not only to a betrayal of fans but outright fraud

The media had a “soft spot for touching stories such as his”, and so “we have much to learn”, adds the Asahi Shimbun.

Remembering the verse ‘I vow to doubt moving stories while shedding tears’, a line from a poem by Shuntaro Tanikawa, we are left with nothing but an empty feeling inside.

 

See also: A worldwide epidemic of poetic plagiarism

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