Hello, everyone. I am Ithaka. And this is Sponge, a podcast of absorption and reflection in the process of returning to or becoming our most unreal selves.
The theme for today’s episode is this: the playful obsession with one’s state of being, independent of artificial constructs, is a fundamental element in finding a creative well that never dries up. That is something I absorbed from “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda,” a documentary film directed by Stephen Nomura Schible. Schible? Schible? Apologies, Mr. Director, if I mispronounced your last name there.
This, my dear fellow Thursday’s children, is the anniversary episode of Sponge. It has been one year! More than one year! Sponge started on July 9th, 2022, and this episode is going live on July 13th, 2023.
It has been a great one year. Thank you to everyone who listened and is listening to this show, for tuning into this frequency. Podcasts nowadays may not exist on a radio spectrum which allows us to literally choose the frequency; however, we are all energy. This podcast is energy. Everything is energy. And for some reason, someone somewhere somewhen found, and is finding, and will find Sponge because such energy frequencies resonate. Thank you for resonating, thank you for a great year, and I hope many more great years will follow.
So, today’s theme. The playful obsession with one’s state of being, independent of artificial constructs, is a fundamental element in finding a creative well that never dries up.
I have been aware of Mr. Sakamoto’s existence for a long time. And it is no surprise, because his career has been long and successful, in terms of fame, in terms of critical acclaim, in terms of fan love, and possibly, financially as well. Over the years, I have enjoyed various music from Mr. Sakamoto, knowing that it is music from Mr. Sakamoto.
However, I didn’t really… I didn’t know much about him other than that he composes music. But this documentary, “Coda,” changed that somewhat. One documentary or even a hundred documentaries could not possibly encompass everything that a human being is; and still, this was my first exposure to Mr. Sakamoto as a person, someone who exists as the source of the music, rather than as a credit line at the end or at the beginning of a movie.
And the thing that made this documentary such a joy to watch is that… Mr. Sakamoto, when he does his creative work, is boundless. I mean, it may sound obvious, because, if you are the opposite—if you are bound, limited in creative work—how could you be creative, and thus if you aren’t creative, how could you be successful and have a documentary about yourself?
But what I mean is that… Sometimes limitations set us free. Sometimes limitations are a way to be boundless. And then there are the plain mundane limitations that are just limitations, you know? There’s the poetic limitation, from which we get the beauties that follow iambic pentameters… and then there’s just being stuck in a box.
And the methods in which Mr. Sakamoto works, which this documentary shows, are that Mr. Sakamoto seems unbound. Not only is he physically unbound, in that geographically, he travels great distances to collect sound, but also, in his mind he isn’t limited to the concept of instruments. On top of that, I think he doesn’t even operate from the artificial construct of limit or no limit, when it comes to his music.
And that is how, his creative well, even if he had lived for another couple of centuries, would not have dried up. I just find it difficult to imagine that it ever would’ve dried up. A well like this cannot dry up, which is personally interesting to me, because only a few months ago, I had been thinking in terms of “Oh, my creative well could dry up. I gotta fill it.”
Now, partly because of absorptions that happen through films like “Coda,” books, and music, and so on and so forth, I am beginning to think that there is no reason for a creative well to dry if it is truly creative. And it is truly creative when artificial constructs are let go.
What is included in the category of “artificial constructs”? Geographical boundaries. Historically accepted notions about the tools of the trade, such as, in the case of Mr. Sakamoto, what counts as an instrument and what not. Critical concepts about what constitutes proper music and what is considered base, lower, uneducated music. The boundary between popular music and acclaim-worthy music. The “us versus them” paradigms surrounding race and nations and religions, all of that.
Perhaps Mr. Sakamoto does live under the influence of such artificial constructs in his daily life, outside of his music. I am not sure how he would separate his music from his life, but it could be possible. I don’t know. The documentary does not get into that, and I haven’t absorbed other sources about Mr. Sakamoto.
However, I find it difficult to imagine for a person to go from his free state—free of artificial constructs—and then suddenly jumping to a state of limitations. Like, I cannot imagine that his going to the polar region, to collect raw sound from that location, can exist independently from his personal life. His music—or, more broadly, sound—is his person. So I cannot imagine how there can be a personal life that is limited.
And when I say that he isn’t limited, or some other artist isn’t limited, I don’t mean that they have five thousand girlfriends and boyfriends and spend their savings recklessly. That’s not freedom, necessarily. I mean that it seems that Mr. Sakamoto, when he wants to and needs to, can look at something, hear something, perceive something, and just see it as the thing that is, independent of artificial constructs.
I had always thought of him as a composer, but it turns out that one way in which his independence from artificial constructs manifests is that he is also a performer. He performs on stage. I didn’t know that. On top of that, he acts. I really did not know that. His art, his being, seems to exist on one whole inseparable, irreplaceable spectrum. Or his being is that spectrum. Or that spider web. Or that infinity loop. I guess various different geometric shapes could symbolize the way he operates.
See, this acting and music thing, and me having no idea that it’s one person doing all of that—this happened to me with Childish Gambino and Donald Glover. Donald Glover is Childish Gambino! And for years, I had no idea. Wikipedia says that Donald Glover is, quote, an “actor, comedian, singer, rapper, writer, director, and producer.” End quote.
But is he really only these things? I don’t think so. He is probably also many other things. And… I guess one could say that everyone is many things, but… no, not everyone is many things. Everyone has the potential to be many things, but usually there tends to be more of a line between things. I do think that in the year 2023, we, humanity in general, finally have a chance to be everything that we are, much better than how things used to be. Truly, before these recent years, there have been no other years in which people who dance could potentially not only make a living but also thrive by allowing millions of people to watch them dance. It just wasn’t possible. The technology just wasn’t there. And for a person to write shoot direct act in a movie—also technologically simply not possible, until smartphones with great cameras, until extremely affordable storage of data, until wider internet connections, all of that appeared.
And so… if we wanted to be everything that we are, now is the time that we can finally do that, realistically. Pretty soon, a description like this, an ”actor, comedian, singer, rapper, writer, director, and producer” might become the stuff of history. There would be just too many things to list. And it would become redundant to list all those things.
Related to this… people ask, out of the inertia of small talk, “Hey, what do you do?” And it’s like… I know what the question means, but I can’t get rid of the thought of… “What do you mean, what do I do? What do you do? Do you do one thing?” Maybe that person does do one thing, but these days, unlikely. People do so many different things. Say, having a social media account. That can be someone’s sole occupation. So, do I list all of that?
I guess the general trend in answering the eternally confusing question of “Hey, what do you do?” is to answer it with whatever job title that makes you the most money at any given time. But that’s such an IRS way of thinking, you know? And come on, people, we’re not the IRS. The IRS may argue that whatever job that brings in the most money, that is who you are, but we—humans, not the IRS—should do better than that. Besides, if the income rule were to apply, then all the people who are not getting paid for their work, for example, parents, homemakers, caretakers who aren’t paid, all of them would have nothing to say. So, the money rule makes no sense.
Speaking of which, and I know I’m going off on a tangent of a tangent of a tangent here, but, somewhere I read something about how… how illogical it is that, if you pay someone to take care of your ill family member, then that paid caretaker can call themselves a caretaker on their tax document, and you can deduct the payments you make to them. But if you take care of your ill family member yourself—which, I would imagine, could have many advantages, such as, eh, maybe you and the family member know each other? So, like, if the family member is already ill, maybe it’s good that you know each other and are comfortable with each other?—anyway, when you take care of your ill family member yourself, and so, there are no payments at all, no bank transactions, no Venmo, no Paypal, no nothing—then nobody gets to call themselves a caretaker. So, even though there exists this person who is spending the majority of their time taking care of someone, and thus, they are a caretaker, even so, they cannot call themselves a caretaker officially.
This is why… the labels of bureaucracy aren’t the actual thing. Just because this caretaker, who isn’t paid in money, is practically invisible to the bureaucracy doesn’t mean that this act being done, this act of caretaking, isn’t occurring. So, this question of “What do you do?” and this IRS way of operating, this… unless you make money, or unless you’re famous, or unless there is some other externally verifiable method in which to prove your existence in relation to the act being performed, then you cannot call yourself that—that way of operating, it’s useful for paperwork, but to make it a way of operating for greater life? No.
All this to say: Donald Glover is also Childish Gambino. And Mr. Sakamoto is, was, many things. Mmmm, nah, he still is. Even this thing about death. Even when dead, we aren’t dead. And especially with someone like Mr. Sakamoto whose reach was impressive when alive, and also, the way in which the reach occurred was by getting into people’s souls. So… is he dead? I don’t know. Seems to me that his music is very much alive, and since that was the primary mode in which I “interacted,” in air quotes, with him while he was alive, for me… not much changed. He passed away on March 28, 2023, aged 71. And… his primary mode of interaction is still alive.
That said, I wish I had seen this documentary before he died. It was on my watch list since January or February this year. If I had watched it then, then I could’ve watched it before and after his death. But now there can be no before anymore.
Either way, the way I interact with his music hasn’t changed prior or post death. In fact, post death, now that I watched this documentary, I am interacting with him more. Such is the irony with the human mind—it is infinite. It is so boundless that life and death, which seem quite set in stone, aren’t necessarily so.
And so, because how his creative well operates is so limitless, Mr. Sakamoto’s music covers a wide range, in terms of genre. Some of it sounds like what might be categorized as ambient music, almost meditation music. And, in the first sequence, he is playing with the sound of a piano that was submerged in water. It’s a piano that survived the tsunami; it floated up afterward.
And, literally, he not only plays the piano, he plays with the sound of it. He loves every element of this world that can hit the eardrum. No, more than that. Every element that can generate any sort of vibration whatsoever—which is, really, everything, because we’re all energy and we’re all vibrating—everything that can generate vibrations and be perceived on our skin—because that’s one way to perceive sound, through tactile sensations—them, he loves. All those elements.
He says, quote, “I felt as if I was playing the corpse of a piano that had drowned.” End quote. So, he even plays corpses. He can play a dead piano. Talk about being independent of artificial constructs. If you can play a piano alive or dead, then you don’t ever need to worry about your creative well drying. Something somewhere will always make a vibration, and you’ll make music with that.
And sometimes, in the documentary, nothing happens. But in that nothing, something happens.
As in, there is plenty of silence in this documentary, the pure kind, as well as “silence” in air quotes that’s actually room tone. So, either we can hear the room tone in the documentary or, when the documentary itself has no sound, we can hear our room tone. This reminded me of singing bowl sounds. You’re supposed to follow the sound vanish into the nothing. Similar to that, while watching the documentary, most of the time we’re paying attention to the sounds in the documentary. When that sound fades, suddenly we become more aware of our own surroundings, which we’d been, presumably, forgetting as we’d been paying attention to the world within the documentary.
In addition to the silences/room tones, there are also tiny sounds within the documentary, such as Mr. Sakamoto swallowing multiple pills, one by one, in a row. Because, he has throat cancer. Later on it became the cause of his death. So, him talking about a piano that drowned is interesting. Death looms, gently, throughout this documentary. It’s not sad, it’s not depressing, not at all. It seems that while the documentary was being filmed, Mr. Sakamoto’s condition wasn’t too severe—I guess thusly, because he talks about the challenges of rest, or not working. Which, I am guessing, means that he can still work without rest.
And, I mentioned this in another episode, this concept of “needing to rest” and how puzzling it is. And as I was watching Mr. Sakamoto, my puzzlement continued. I mean, yeah, I guess, doctors will say, and Mr. Sakamoto’s body might say, that he needs rest. He himself admits, quote, “It would be a shame not to extend my life, if I could.” End quote. He does recognize that, if, by not working, he could extend his life another ten years, he could create even more greater things. His being that creates those great things could continue on for longer.
But also, I wonder what rest will do to him, and I am guessing that he wonders/wondered the same thing. Because to this person, his “work,” in air quotes, isn’t something that can be separate from him. Everything is work to him. Everything is inspiration. How is he supposed to shut that part of him down without dying immediately?
So, it’s no wonder that he talks about the challenges of rest, of not working. He says that he’s worked for so long without a break. But I wonder how much of that really felt like working so long without a break. We all sleep. I assume he slept, even during the period he describes as being breakless. So, if he sleeps, then, in his waking hours, how could he possibly not be working, when everything is source for his creativity?
See, in the documentary, he makes screeching sounds with the piano. There’s the sound of the chandelier shaking. He listens to the sound of birds and leaves and the air in a forest that is so lush, so pure-green. There’s the sound of him treading on the fallen leaves. Of him playing with metallic objects. Of him hitting plastic with a stick.
All these building components of sound, not only from instruments, but from the world—they are everywhere. His creations aren’t separate from everyday life, but perpetually hanging in the air.
And he speaks of “auditory texture,” and uses rain to experiment. This, somewhat tangentially, reminded me of the movie “Her.” From IMDb, quote, “In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.” End quote.
It’s a movie in which a human man falls in love with an AI voice that sounds like a woman. And in the movie, what struck me the first time I watched it, was how comfortable the clothes looked. See, sometimes, when fictional works are set in future backgrounds, for whatever reason, clothing is made of plastic and even metal. And I tend to think… Why? I mean, if it’s a dystopian world, then, okay. There aren’t enough resources. But even when the future background is one where there is so-called abundance, sometimes characters wear plastic and metal. And then I’m really going, Why? Why on earth, even a future one, would the majority of humans opt to voluntarily wear such uncomfortable clothing? It makes no sense to me.
Fabric. Beautiful fabric. Satin. Silk. Even cotton. Cotton is very pleasant on the skin. Why not wear those?
And the movie “Her” is one where the characters most definitely wear those. The comfy clothes. The fabric with comfy texture. If the future is so well-off, so developed, so much better than now, then it seems matter-of-fact to me that the humans would wear what feels nice. Not plastic. Not metal. Rather, cotton. Just nice, straightforward, good cotton.
And Mr. Sakamoto’s mention of auditory texture reminded me of that. As he experiments with rain, he is so childlike. And even when he uses electronic sounds—before watching the documentary, I couldn’t pinpoint where this texture of his music comes from, but now I am thinking, this is where it comes from. The awareness of this man that the future isn’t in shiny objects, hard surfaces, clanking things. The future is in the comfortable, pleasant, good textures. Even when he plays the electronic guitar on a gym ball, his sounds, as a combination, have that quality.
And the face he makes as he listens to what he just created, is just amazing. Him reacting to the vibrations of the sound, it’s pure joy.
I guess… I don’t know. It is not possible to verify this part of my impression, but it seems to me that you really can feel what the creator felt, either during creation or in their present state.
And by this, I don’t mean that you can tell whether the creator had a cold while they composed a piece of music or not. Such are temporary states, unless, I guess the point of the music was to encapsulate the agony of having a cold. I am also not talking about gender or nationality. See, it’s the whole IRS thing again. We’re told to put something in boxes and we think that’s us. We’re not. And I am not denying that I am a woman and I am an Asian American, whatever. I am saying, even so, I am not that. It’s a very different thing to put Asian American in the paperwork for IRS or whatever other bureaucratic document, versus, to believe that because I am Asian American, what I write will be Asian American.
Another tangent here, but definitely somewhat related, is… the series, “Beef.” It’s a series on Netflix. It’s about, quote, “Two strangers get into a road rage incident that brings chaos into their lives.” End quote.
And most of the cast for the series are Asian. And I didn’t watch the whole series, but I watched some of the episodes. There’s this one scene in episode 9 where one of the main characters, an Asian woman named Amy, visits a white woman named Jordan. Jordan has a lover, it seems, who is an Asian woman.
So, Amy the Asian woman visits Jordan the white woman at Jordan’s place. Jordan has an Asian woman lover.
This lover brings something to drink, and says “You wanted honey on the side, right, baby?”
Jordan answers, “That’s how I always take it.”
The lover says, “Do you want anything to eat or…”
Jordan says, “We’re good.” And then there’s this awkward moment where the Asian lover lingers. And Jordan says, ”Could you give us some space please?”
So the Asian lover leaves after saying some awkward things. And after she leaves, Jordan says to Amy, another Asian woman, regarding the lover: “She’s so attentive. Is that a cultural thing or…”
And Amy goes, “No, Jordan, it’s not a cultural thing.”
It’s hilarious. It’s like… It’s like… Yeah it is one thing to spot general trends in a culture, which, oh they can definitely be identified. But, that’s different from taking your lover, and generalizing that. It’s pathetic. It’s pathetic to reduce your lover or a one-night-stand or whatever into this cultural thing. As if there’s like a… an option from a robot manufacturer. Insert Asian cultural thing. Or some such thing. Any cultural thing. This would be different if Jordan were talking about some stranger. But this lover is literally in the house and knows where to get the drinks for the guests. Most tragic of all, I think Jordan probably thinks that she cannot be as attentive as her lover, not because Jordan simply doesn’t like it or for whatever other reason, but because Jordan isn’t Asian. Possibly, Jordan thinks that white people can’t be attentive. What the literal fuck kind of self-imposed limitation is that? It’s just so purely unnecessary.
And I don’t mean that Jordan should know that white people can be attentive too. I mean, they can be, but that’s not the conculsion, is what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that being attentive doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being Asian or White, especially when we’re talking about an individual, and not a dataset. Not an average.
To conclude that “Oh, white people can be attentive too” is just switching from one construct to another. I’m saying, this construct of associating an individual’s attentiveness with their racial background does not need to exist at all, on an individual basis. Because none of us are purely Asian or White or any other race. We’re many different things. Too many different things to reduce into one label. Or two labels. Or three labels. Or even a hundred. Like… Are we the IRS or what? Are we the US Census Bureau?
Anyway. To go back to what I was saying before this. You can feel what the creator felt. And I don’t mean the bureaucratic stuff. I mean Ryuichi Sakamoto, the soul. Not because he’s Japanese, not because he died in his 70s, not because he had cancer, not because he was a man, not because of anything like that, but the being that is eternal and undying that exists independently of all the artificial constructs that humans apply in order to process and organize and thereby limit their world—that core soul, I think you can really feel.
And to me, in the case of Mr. Sakamoto, that core is comfort. I am guessing that due to his experience with cancer, there could’ve been some tragic moments of fury. And that, too, could be in his music, but fundamentally, his core is, to me, comfort. Like the cotton fabric worn by the characters in “Her.” Even with the most electric sounding electric guitars, Mr. Sakamoto’s music conveys comfort. There’s always something nostalgic yet futuristic about his music. His music makes me miss the future.
And I think the reason I can perceive this so consistently in his works is that he is so playfully obsessed with his state of being, independent of artificial constructs. His creative well can never dry, because it comes from his being itself. It’s an energy that vibrates. It’s not a finite thing that can dry. It will draw from anything and everything—from the rain, from the error noises of the computer, from the trees, from the scratching sounds of a drowned piano.
In the documentary, sometimes, he draws his scores by hand. At other times, he uses computer programs. It does not matter.
There’s also a part where his young version shows up. And I… at first I didn’t know it was him. He was in a band called “Yellow Magic Orchestra,” which was according to Wikipedia, quote, ”a Japanese electronic music band formed in Tokyo in 1978.” End quote. So, the very name of this band. Electronic music, but orchestra? And “Yellow magic.” And in the interview from those olden times, young Ryuichi says, quote, “The computer lets you make music even if you can’t play piano. You just need an idea, and you don’t have to practice for decades.” End quote. It seems that to him, early on, it didn’t matter how music was made.
This is relevant today, as we’re surrounded by various perspectives on what will happen to the creators of this world, as in, all humans, when the AIs take over? All the image-generating AIs, the text-generating AIs. Some say that writers are doomed. Artists are doomed. Everyone is doomed. All humans will be replaced. No one will work.
I don’t think so. There has always been an overflow of material. I’m surprised that in some circles, the impression that there was a shortage of material has persisted until recently. For me, I never felt that there was a shortage of things to watch, things to read, things to listen to. I thought that because of this lack of shortage, because of this over-abundance, was why more people were starting to pay attention to the artist as well as the art itself. This art could be a movie, a song, a book, and also, a Youtube channel. The care and insight that goes into some Youtube channels is astounding. They’re works of art. And the Youtubers are artists. I thought that the reason influencer culture became possible at all was that there is so much stuff in the world already. This was well before the AIs came. There are so many clothing brands, cosmetic brands, electronic appliances… people don’t care about the brands alone, anymore. When given a choice, people want to be like other people they admire. At least that’s what I thought. That that is why influencers can exist; because they give people a living breathing constant vision of a version that they could potentially be.
And so, when, like Mr. Sakamoto said, all those years ago, computers let you make music even though you don’t know how to play the piano… I think, “So?” There has been an abundance of music for over a decade by now. So many people make music, so many people write books, so many people paint.
So when the AIs come in and they double, triple, tenfold the output, “So what?” is my reaction. To me, a human, the difference between one million things to consume and ten million things to consume is nothing, because I cannot perceive one million or ten million.
But what I can perceive is whether the creator behind the one or ten or however many things that I can process is the soul that I am resonating with. As in, am I on the same frequency with them? A similar frequency? I don’t think I’ll care whether they played the piano themselves or not, unless the playing itself is their thing. That could be. I don’t think pianists will ever go away. That’s the thing they do. It’s not only the output of audible music that they do, but the practice they did for decades of years, their routine, their wardrobe, their hairstyle, the way they live and breathe—that is what they do. That is who they are. So, this idea that when the AIs are popularized and more stuff is created because AIs can create more stuff, this idea that when that happens, humans will be replaced is very strange to me. The number of things that are out there has been so great for such a long time, I don’t see how adding more stuff to stuff that’s already been a lot will affect how the trend is, to me, the trend is already that it’s about the creator, not just the output, the creations.
This is why the playful obsession with one’s state of being, independent of artificial constructs, is critical. It is a fundamental element in finding a creative well that never dries. And we are all creators. In everything we do, even when the IRS doesn’t count it as an official job, there is something of us. Our state of being is us. The AIs or other human beings cannot take that away from us.
Before we continue, a reminder. Please leave a review and/or rating where you listen to this podcast, so that other Thursday’s children can find it. Thank you very much.
And, to go back to Mr. Sakamoto transcending the labels, you know what else he is? A poet. He’s a poet.
For example, in this scene. He is talking about the piano, which does not sustain sound. Nevertheless, he says that he often thinks about music in terms of the piano, and specifically says, quote, “I’m fascinated by the notion of a perpetual sound. One that doesn’t dissipate over time. … I suppose in literary terms, it would be like a metaphor for eternity.” End quote.
Oh, a glorious poet, he is.
Japanese itself is an auditorily pleasing language, to my ears. I wonder what he said in Japanese. As in, I would like to understand it, without the need for translation, but even the translated version of what he said is beautiful.
He goes on to talk about the relationship between nature and human ideals, using the piano as an example.
Quote, “Nature is forced into shape. Interestingly, the piano requires re-tuning. We humans say it falls out of tune. But that’s not exactly accurate. Matter is struggling to return to a natural state. … In short, the piano is tuned by force to please our ears or ideals. It’s a condition that feels natural to us humans. But from Nature’s perspective, it’s very unnatural. I think deep inside me somewhere, I have a strong aversion to that.” End quote.
Now, regardless of your stance on Mr. Sakamoto’s stance on the environmentalism spectrum, these words, phew. A poet, he is.
I wonder if the sense of nostalgic future in his works comes from his perpetual sense of loss. He views the world as slipping through his hands, and has done so for quite some time, it seems, well before the cancer. That, combined with his boyish wonder about the marvels that are sounds, is what seems to be so charming about his creations.
In a different scene, he talks about false constructs, such as race. He talks about how we all come from one language and one music. And I’m very much interested in the concept of constructs these days, false or otherwise.
The degree to which we believe in oppositions is astounding, even as I recognize that without some kind of opposing spectrum, we cannot perceive anything. Without the hot we cannot perceive the cold. Without the cold, we cannot perceive the hot.
But. That is different from thinking that hot is good and cold is bad. Or that hot is bad and cold is good. Or that hot and cold are absolute and there cannot be hotter or colder. Language, race, music—they’re even more complicated constructs, and yet, somehow somewhere they’re being used to actually absolutely mean something. It’s quite interesting. Language, race, music—these things don’t even exist on a linear spectrum. Maybe they’re on a star-shaped map. A spiderweb. Some shape that isn’t as simple as the line. And even if two people can physically exist at the exact same location on a map… Actually, that’s not even possible, physically. Like, we cannot overlap on top of each other. Even if we do overlap on top of each other, even so, the height at which we’re at, because, if we’re overlapped, then one is on top of the other, so, by definition, it is even physically, it is impossible for two physically divided beings to be at the exact same location. None of us experience the same thing. We can’t, because of everything that comes before and after, and because of the physical limitations.
Constructs are convenient, but even those falling in the same category of constructs cannot ever be the same. They cannot experience the same things, ever. Constructs of this physical world cannot help but be limited.
But free of constructs, there is a oneness. There is something beyond the physical shape and form, beyond anything perceivable in the 3D world. This thing that makes Mr. Sakamoto’s body of work his. Regardless of whether he collects the sound from between the icebergs or whether he generates them on his computer. Regardless of whether he’s Japanese or a man or lived on earth for about seven decades and then died. Something that this clueless character in the series “Beef” just doesn’t understand.
And if we just allow ourselves to exist independently from the artificial constructs, and simply obsess, playfully, with our state of being, then the well never dries up. It cannot dry up. We are infinite, because we are nothing. None of the labels.
Great documentary. Loved the edits between the movies and the recording sessions. By movies, I mean the feature films for which Mr. Sakamoto created the scores. The music continued to flow in the documentary, as the visuals switched from the feature films to the recording sessions of the scores.
In particular, the piece, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” is beautiful. I will link to it in the show notes.
Also, the piece from “The Revenant.” Oh, the pause in the music, it’s like breathing.
The documentary is also visually pleasing, especially in the “error or noise” concert scene where the futuristic nostalgic music is juxtaposed with an… electronically disintegrating visual of the band.
And, again, Mr. Sakamoto is also an actor. I had no idea that he was so comfortable in front of a camera. He is so charming. A handsome man, he is.
And this documentary made me once again think about the value of sharing the process. I like his music more, now, just because I have seen him for a hundred minutes or so. His music is the same. What changed is what I know about him, or think I know about him.
And he acts! That’s the biggest surprise. I had no idea. I even watched “The Last Emperor.” I had no idea. I thought I knew what he looked like, but I’d only seen him in several photographs, at the time. I didn’t recognize him in the moving pictures. I… wasn’t thinking he could be there. Maybe next time, if I watch that movie again, I’ll try to spot Mr. Sakamoto.
Lastly, I will quote Mr. Sakamoto. He said, “I’m not taking anything for granted. But I know that I want to make more music.” End quote.
Indeed. He dedicated himself to sound in every shape and form. Free of artificial constructs, he collected sound from the wild and in his studio, in melody and in spoken words, in classic instruments and in electronic ones, regardless of the geographic location, sometimes containing political messages—which, regardless of what one may think of his political stance itself, is another way of going beyond constructs. He was neither just an artist nor just a political activist; he was both and neither; he was everything and nothing; he acted, he composed, he performed, he worked, he played—he was his art, his life, his being—and therefore, life may have ended now, but his being? What happened to his being?
In this episode, at this moment as you’re listening to this, the energy of his being still exists. It still is. Rest in peace, Mr. Sakamoto, in whichever state you are, dead or alive, or both and neither.
And that is all for this episode. Thank you for listening.
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You can find a link to the full transcript in the show notes. Also, visit ithakaonmymind.com to find out more about everything else I do, besides Sponge.
Stay true, everybody.
- “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda”
- Donald Glover
- Yellow Magic Orchestra
- Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
- From “The Revenant”
- DaniHaDani – Bluming
- Yonatan Riklis – Tales of the Mind
- Noam Zaguri – Driving Home
- Ardie Son – Cloud
- Birraj – Away
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