Ryuichi Sakamoto

Sakamoto’s Tree

Music and noise, art and politics, sound and vision: Composer, musician, occasional actor and environmental activist Ryuichi Sakamoto says we’re living in a world in serious need of reconciliation. If only for our sheer survival.

Sakamoto is best known as the founding member of Japan’s genre-defining techno-pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra who went on to great acclaim as the composer of film scores including Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Sheltering Sky, The Last Emperor, High Heels and many others. Lesser known are Sakamoto’s valuable contributions toward bridging the supposed gaps between high and low musics with dazzling endeavors along seemingly disparate stylistic lines, from Brazilian sambas to hip-hoppy beat blasts to jazzy pop to classy world-music hybrids to new-musical explorations in the realm of pure electronics. Throughout, he’s pursued a highly personal odyssey to find the elusive boundary between music and noise –– or at least some point of appeasement.

Sakamoto’s new double CD, twin-titled Playing the Piano and Out of Noise (Decca), demonstrates a way of zeroing in on the fine line between ostensible musical extremes.

“I have done many projects,” he says, “some that were originally symphonic, and then I’ve done piano solo or piano trio settings, which is just another sound. This time I worked the most simply, as a piano solo.”