Faking it: how to come clean to your audience

Until Thursday, Mamoru Samuragochi was a decorated classical composer and a tunesmith whose pen game and personal triumph placed him among the most celebrated of living Japanese composers.

Samuragochi initially made waves writing the scores to a couple of video games: “Resident Evil: Dual Shock Ver” and “Animusha: Warlords.” With the landmark “Hiroshima,” his first symphony, he gained widespread acclaim. Samuragochi moved 100,000 units out the stores — an impressive number for a classical release.

“Hiroshima” also drew attention to Samuragochi’s family’s tragic past. He hails from the Hiroshima Prefecture, and when the US dropped the atomic bomb there in 1945, his parents, according to Samuragochi, were both irradiated.

Did we mention he was deaf?  Media outlets billed Samuragochi as the “Japanese Beethoven.” A deaf composer defying the odds, crafting all this in his head! He was a man for all centuries, maybe the next classical music heavyweight.

Except, he wasn’t. Turns out that Samuragochi may have beenprobably was …….. definitely was a fraud, through and through. A complete huckster.

So … who wrote “Hiroshima” then? What about his “Sonatina for violin?” The video game music?

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce: Takashi Niigaki.

Samuragochi’s story started to unravel when a music critic, Takeo Naguchi, started poking into Samuragochi’s biography. Mr. Niigaki came forward Thursday with the truth after hearing about Naguchi’s inquest. Turns out all that music that had audiences abuzz was written by a part-time professor (with a full range of hearing).

So what part of Mamoru Samuragochi’s biography is true — is he deaf? Has he written even a note of music? Did critical fervor for Samuragochi’s stuff — really, Niigaki’s stuff — drown out logical questions that follow a seemingly unbelievable backstory? In order: we don’t know; we don’t know; and … probably, yes.

But before you grab the pitchforks and torches, take a hit from this L.

We’ve still got a no-name composer out there (now you know his name! All together: “Takashi Niigaki!”) who tapped into pain and poignancy, wrote a heady piece that won over audiences, and did a tidy 100,000 units. People are paying money to hear this thing. Maybe the fraud leads to bigger sales, bigger performances, more accolades. Everybody loves a good redemption story.

If this really bugs us then that’s on us. We need to stop searching for that tearjerker Hollywood-ready backstory and just start listening. It’s an art and a craft, so pay homage to the real ones. Forget the fakes.

Not to worry for Mr. Samuragochi. I’m sure they’ll let him lace up for a celebrity boxing match.


By Will Roseliep

Writer for different outlets. Personal work appears here first:

One reply on “Faking it: how to come clean to your audience”

I know people don’t like being fooled, but my initial response to reading the linked article was: does this make the music worse somehow? Does the composer need to be deaf for it to be good? Or was the audience lowering yits standards because they thought it was “cool” that the composer had some crazy backstory? Seems strange overall, but it doesn’t mean that the music is not still enjoyable. I guess this doesn’t take in to account the whole Japanese culture of shame that lies (in my understanding) somewhere between myth and reality.

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