Celebrated Japanese Composer Reveals Himself as a Fake

Mamoru Samuragochi pictured in a Japanese newspaper (screenshot via i>Télé on YouTube)
Mamoru Samuragochi pictured in a Japanese newspaper (screenshot via i>Télé on YouTube)

The huge news story out of Japan today is that renowned classical music composer composer Mamoru Samuragochi is a fraud. It turns out Samuragochi, who’s been hailed as a genius and, because he was deaf, a contemporary Japanese Beethoven, had been hiring someone else to write his compositions for him since the mid ’90s. He may not even be deaf. It’s kind of like Shia LaBeouf meets Milli Vanilli, except on a vastly larger scale.

The New York Times has the full, fascinating story, but essentially, Samuragochi came forward and admitted the hoax because his ghostwriter, Takashi Niigaki, finally caved and told his tale to a weekly tabloid. He also gave a press conference, where he asserted that Samuragochi isn’t deaf. What pushed Niigaki himself to the edge was the use of one of Samuragochi’s compositions, “Sonatina for Violin,” by Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi. Takahashi will, now unfortunately, perform the routine in the Olympics that have just started in Sochi, Russia. Here’s a version of it:

One of the more intriguing aspects of Samuragochi’s career is the music he — or more likely, Niigaki — composed for video games. He wrote a symphony soundtrack for the game Resident Evil as well as the music for Onimusha: Warlords. Much of the former can be found in a series of clips on YouTube:

As can the entire Onimusha soundtrack:

Both are quite brooding and affecting. Someone is clearly talented, even if it’s not Samuragochi.

The composer did issue an apology through his lawyer:

“Samuragochi is deeply sorry as he has betrayed fans and disappointed others. He knows he could not possibly make any excuse for what he has done.”

He does not yet appear to have responded to the allegation of faking deafness, although according to the Guardian, he was quoted on a news program explaining that “I had to ask the person to help me for more than half the work because the ear condition got worse.”

In an interesting extra twist to the story, Japanese media outlets have also apologized, for failing to expose the fraud. “The media must also consider our own tendency to fall for tear-jerking stories,” said a spokesperson for the newspaper Asahi Shimbun. It’s not just Japanese outlets that fell for it, though; Americans can never resist a good ol’ heartwarming story either. TIME profiled Samuragochi in 2001 and had this to say:

Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of the Onimusha score is the fact that the composer can barely hear it himself. … His condition has brought him a certain celebrity, which he fears may detract from an honest critique of his work. He understands the inspirational appeal of the story of a digital-age Beethoven, a deaf composer who overcomes the loss of the sense most vital to his work.

Indeed, it seems he understood the inspirational appeal all too well.

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