One of Japan’s most celebrated classical composers, Mamoru Samuragochi, released a statement on Wednesday admitting that he had hired a ghost composer to write his most iconic pieces over the past 18 years of his musical career. Samuragochi, who suffers from deafness, had been called “Japan’s Beethoven.”
The shocking revelation comes just before the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics, where Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi is scheduled to perform his men’s singles short program to the tune of “Sonatina for Violin” – a piece that Samuragochi confessed was written by an unnamed male composer that he had employed since 1996.
“I’ve been told that there are certain circumstances that make it hard for the [ghost composer] to come out in public, and Samuragochi has come to describe himself as the sole composer,” said a lawyer for the deaf music icon, who wished to remain anonymous. “[Samuragochi] says it is totally inexcusable and that he deeply regrets it. He is mentally distressed and not in a condition to properly express his own thoughts.”
Samuragochi, 50, rose to fame in the 1990s after composing the background music for the wildly popular Resident Evil video game (known as Biohazard in Japan) and the Japanese anime series “Onimusha.”
According to his official website, Samuragochi was born and raised in Hiroshima by parents who had survived the atom bomb. His mother began giving him piano lessons at the age of four, and he claims to have mastered Beethoven and Bach by the time he was 10 years old.
Samuragochi began experiencing severe migraines and hearing impairment at age 17. He refused to enter music school and turned down an offer to sing in a rock band.
He completed “Symphony No. 1 Hiroshima” in 2003 – a piece written for the victims of the atomic blast that would later be considered his magnum opus. It was performed for an audience of G8 representatives at commemoration event in Hiroshima in 2008.
It became a classical hit in 2011, with a CD of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra’s performance selling more than 100,000 copies.
Last March, Japanese national broadcaster NHK aired a documentary called “Melody of the Soul” in which Samuragochi traveled to the devastated Tohoku region to meet survivors of the 2011 tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster.
“The film shows Samuragochi playing with a small girl whose mother was killed in the disaster and apparently composing a requiem for her, despite his own struggles with illness,” wrote AFP. “Viewers flocked in their tens of thousands to buy his Hiroshima piece, which became an anthemic tribute to the tsunami-hit region’s determination to get back on its feet, known informally as the symphony of hope.”
NHK apologized for not being able to verify the authenticity of Samuragochi’s work.
In a statement to the broadcaster, Samuragochi added that he needed help for more than half of his work because of his worsening medical condition.
In addition to chronic headaches and deafness, the musician also suffers from neurotic depression and anxiety.
“All of us have darkness inside ourselves, and we seek the light,” Samuragochi said in a 2012 interview with the Hiroshima Peace Media Center, speaking of his music’s appeal. “I think the theme of the darkness of despair, and the light of hope, has connected with people in this age.”