Ryuichi Sakamoto has lived many musical lives in his nearly 70 years. As a keyboardist and songwriter in Haruomi Hosono’s Yellow Magic Orchestra, he helped set the stage for synthpop.
His solo experiments in fusing global genres and close studies of classical impressionism led to him scoring over 30 films in as many years, including Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor and The Sheltering Sky, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant. In the past 20 years alone, he’s written a multimedia opera, turned a glass building into an instrument, and travelled to the Arctic to record the sound of melting snow. That exploratory spirit runs through Sakamoto’s 2017 album, async, which paints an audio portrait of the passing of time informed by his recovery from throat cancer. “Music, work, and life all have a beginning and an ending,” said Sakamoto in early 2019. “What I want to make now is music freed from the constraints of time.”