Duping a whole nation – and possibly the whole planet – to believe that you are a miracle, that you can write music without literally hearing, that you proclaim to the whole world you mastermind the musical notes by your own, and that you proudly present yourself as ‘modern-day Beethoven’, will be undeniably one of the most outrageous forms of deception, as well as humiliation, you are inflicting to yourself.
This is what happens precisely to Mamoru Samuragochi, the so-called Japanese Beethoven who, as his ghost composer, Takashi Niigaki, confesses, didn’t even know classical music.
Read these two Time articles about Japanese Beethoven, the former written in 2001, and the latter this year. And compare them.
Born in Hiroshima, Samuragochi was so precocious that, at age 5, as his mother tells him, he was creating compositions for the marimba. Samuragochi himself remembers composing his own music at age 10. Although he studied piano as a child, he didn’t have much formal training and taught himself to compose. He is a traditionalist, a student and an admirer of such Western composers as Beethoven and Mozart, and he is dismissive of modern, atonal music. “I like harmony,” he says. “Sometimes I think I was born at the wrong time.”
With his flowing auburn hair and a predilection for wearing black, Samuragochi fashions himself as an outsider in Japan, where conformity rules. The country is now getting better at assimilating people with physical disabilities like deafness into mainstream society. But Samuragochi struggled in obscurity for many years. Instead of composing music for TV dramas that he considered unwatchable, he supported himself by working part time as a video-store clerk and a street sweeper. He finally broke through with the chance to compose the score for a TV film, Cosmos, and then for a video game, Bio Hazard.
The composer has now admitted that he hired a ghostwriter to compose his music starting in the 1990s after his career took off and his hearing problems worsened, he says. He didn’t write any of his seminal works—including the Hiroshima symphony. The real composer was Takashi Niigaki, a part-time lecturer at a music college in Tokyo who came forward about the deceptions just before the Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi was set to skate at Sochi to Samuragochi’s “Sonatina for Violin.”