Japanese ‘Beethoven’ Admits Hiring Another Composer to Write Works; Acclaimed composer Mamoru Samuragochi, turns out not to have written some pieces and may not even be deaf.

Japanese ‘Beethoven’ Admits Hiring Another Composer to Write Works

Acclaimed composer Mamoru Samuragochi, turns out not to have written some pieces and may not even be deaf.


Updated Feb. 6, 2014 4:23 p.m. ET


Mamoru Samuragochi was acclaimed for compositions including one being used at a Sochi skating event; Takashi Niigaki says he wrote music for Mr. Samuragochi. Reuters

An acclaimed deaf Japanese composer whose work is to be played during the Olympic skating competition turns out not to be the composer and appears to hear normally, says the man’s ghostwriter.

Mamoru Samuragochi, described by his promoters as a 21st-century Beethoven, acknowledged this week that he had paid a ghostwriter to compose some of his internationally acclaimed symphonies and other music.

On Thursday, a university lecturer on composition stepped forward to say he was the writer, and alleged that Mr. Samuragochi actually was able to hear. Mr. Samuragochi’s lawyer said he believes his client is deaf.

Mr. Samuragochi won widespread recognition for Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima,” which paid tribute to those killed in the 1945 atomic bombing of the city. His fame reached new heights when Japanese figure skater and Olympic medal hopeful Daisuke Takahashi chose one of his pieces for his short program set for Feb. 13 in the Sochi Winter Games.

In a statement released through his lawyer, Mr. Samuragochi said someone else had composed some of the works attributed to him and apologized for betraying his fans and those involved.

The statement said he was in no state to “convey his feelings personally” because he was “mentally distressed.”

The ghost composer, 43-year-old Takashi Niigaki, teaches at Japan’s renowned Toho Gakuen School of Music. At a 90-minute news conference broadcast live on television Thursday, Mr. Niigaki said he was impelled to come forward before the music was played in front of a global audience in Sochi. Mr. Takahashi is using a piece called “Sonatina for Violin,” which Mr. Niigaki says he wrote.

“If this went on, Takahashi would be used as material to reinforce our fiction,” Mr. Niigaki said.

Mr. Niigaki described himself as Mr. Samuragochi’s “accomplice” and said he wrote more than 20 pieces for him over the years, including the “Hiroshima” symphony. “Since the day I first met him 18 years ago, I’ve been writing music for him,” the ghost composer said.

Mr. Niigaki said at the news conference that on occasion Mr. Samuragochi would listen and comment on Mr. Niigaki’s compositions and the two held normal conversations. “I’ve never felt that he was deaf,” he said.

Mr. Niigaki’s motivation wasn’t entirely clear. He suggested that the two started out with a ghostwriting arrangement, which isn’t uncommon for some composers of commercial works, such as films or videogames. (One of Mr. Samuragochi’s early successes was the Japanese videogame “Onimusha.”) Mr. Niigaki said that over the past 18 years, he was paid a total of about $70,000 for his work. He said that he had intended to go public earlier but that Mr. Samuragochi threatened to commit suicide if he did so. Mr. Samuragochi’s lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment.

Meantime, Mr. Takahashi, the skater, released a statement saying he doesn’t intend to change the music for the short program despite the revelations. “This is an important time before the Olympics—he will do what needs to be done in earnest ahead of the main competition,” his management team said in the statement.

In previous interviews, Mr. Samuragochi, 50 years old, described himself as the son of a Hiroshima atomic-bomb victim and said he became completely deaf from a degenerative illness when he was 35. He appeared in public with long black hair and sunglasses, often with a cane to support himself.

Mr. Samuragochi is able to speak, as could be seen in television programs he was featured in, and his lawyer said Thursday after Mr. Niigaki’s revelations that he could read lips if they were moving slowly.

The scandal illustrates the growing pressure classical composers and performers are under to showcase their quirks, unusual back stories and sex appeal. Live performances are losing fans in an age of shrinking attention spans. The classical audience has also been slower to embrace digital formats, even though they could serve fans better than CDs by providing more historical context about certain works. Sales of classical albums in the U.S. were 6.8 million in 2013, down from 18.8 million in 2003, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Mr. Samuragochi’s promotion agency said he was taught the piano from the age of 4 and mastered Beethoven and Bach pieces by the time he was 10. The agency has said he began experiencing migraines and hearing difficulties when he was 17, and eventually, after going through “hard times” began composing music for videogames. It also said he was a self-taught composer.

The tale of the composer who remained wedded to his art even after losing his hearing had captivated the media. In 2001, Mr. Samuragochi told Time magazine that going deaf was like a “a gift from God.”

In a documentary aired last year by public broadcaster NHK, Mr. Samuragochi was shown visiting Japan’s northeastern coast and meeting survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. NHK apologized Wednesday, saying it should have checked the story more carefully.

His promoter, Samon Promotion Inc., describes him on its website as a “modern-day Beethoven” who pours “despair, hope and prayers” into his composition for those living in the “confused modern world.” The agency said on its website it was “deeply infuriated” by the revelations, and would cancel all concerts related to Mr. Samuragochi.

Mr. Samuragochi’s distributor, Nippon Columbia Co., said the works attributed to him have sold 220,000 compact discs, bringing in revenue of some $6 million, excluding taxes. It didn’t say how much Mr. Samuragochi received from royalties.

In a statement Wednesday, Nippon Columbia said it was “surprised and extremely angry” at the revelations. The company said it stopped shipments of all his works.

Although composers often employ ghostwriters for film and TV scores, such a dependent arrangement for symphonic music is very unusual, according to an executive at a large international record company.

Mr. Niigaki said he didn’t intend to file any charges against Mr. Samuragochi, and said he was willing to forgo any copyrights. The city of Hiroshima said it decided Thursday to retract an award it gave Mr. Samuragochi in 2008 in recognition of his accomplishments.

A woman who answered the phone at the office of Mr. Samuragochi’s lawyer said he was out and couldn’t comment.

In an interview on Japanese television, the lawyer, Kazushi Orimoto, said he believed Mr. Samuragochi was truly deaf. The lawyer was asked by a reporter whether Mr. Samuragochi had been listening to Mr. Niigaki’s news conference on television. “He hasn’t listened to it,” said the lawyer. But apparently realizing the potential absurdity of the question, he quickly laughed and said, “I mean, there’s no way. He can’t hear.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

One Response to Japanese ‘Beethoven’ Admits Hiring Another Composer to Write Works; Acclaimed composer Mamoru Samuragochi, turns out not to have written some pieces and may not even be deaf.

  1. Reblogged this on Cyberspace Crafter and commented:
    cool history…

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