Ryuichi Sakamoto 1952-2023

The year was 2010, the setting a restored movie theatre converted for live performance. The event was a solo concert by composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Against a backdrop of pre-recorded material (including an under-the-ice stream of water recorded from a glacier in Greenland), Sakamoto assumed his position on one of two grand pianos and played what can only be called “a duet with silence.”

At one particularly quiet point during the concert, the wail of a siren could be heard from the fire house across the street from the theater.

It was not unlike how Alan Licht once described a 1952 piano piece by John Cage protégé Christian Wolff, in which the sounds of traffic noise outside Wolff’s open window were louder than the notes he played.

A thin red line was projected on the screen above the stage, slowly moving from left to right as the sound of the fire trucks faded into the distance.

For a brief moment, everyone in the room occupied the same acousmatic field, a happenstance encounter encompassing both creator and audience.

A faint smile on Sakamoto’s face seemed to indicate that the siren was not a distraction, but rather a delightful accident analogous to the shattered glass visible in Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even.

The result was a beautifully unintended yet compelling coincidence, shared by all who participated in its magical serendipity.

It made for the most entrancing moment in the evening teeming with entrancing moments: a collectively satisfying experience encompassing light, sound, space and time.

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