It sounds like an Onion headline, doesn't it? And yet, according to a report from Japan Times, that's exactly what's happened today.
Mamoru Samuragochi, a composer dubbed the "Japanese Beethoven" due to his apparent ability to overcome his own hearing difficulties and still compose beautiful music, has admitted that someone else has been writing his music for nearly 20 years -- at the very least since 1996.
Outside of the video games medium, where he is credited with the scores for Resident Evil: Director's Cut (1997) and Onimusha (2001), Samuragochi is most well-known for his "Hiroshima Symphony," an orchestral piece believed to express the composer's thoughts about atomic bomb survivors -- since he himself was a native of Hiroshima and a son of a family of survivors, it was a plausible story. And yet it seems even this, his most famous work, was ghostwritten by an as-yet unnamed composer -- believed by Japanese media to be music teacher Aragaki Takashi -- working on commission.
Samuragochi wasn't completely divorced from the creative process -- he passed his ideas and images for the work along to the mystery ghostwriter -- but the reality most certainly wasn't what was described on his apparently now-defunct website. The official story -- until today, anyway -- was that Samuragochi suffered migraines and hearing impairment from the age of 17 onwards, losing his hearing completely by the age of 35. Despite this, the story goes, he continued to compose, much as Beethoven did, by relying on his perfect pitch -- the rare ability to identify, recreate or "hear" musical notes without the benefit of a reference tone.
Japanese broadcaster NHK quoted Samuragochi as saying that he hired the ghostwriter around 1996 when he was asked to compose music for movies for the first time. His ear condition was getting worse, and he claims the unnamed person helped him for "more than half the work."
Samuragochi's lawyer said Samuragochi "deeply regrets what happened," and that "he is mentally distressed and not in a condition to properly express his own thoughts." NHK and other Japanese broadcasters including Tokyo Broadcasting System and TV Asahi have all apologized for previously identifying Samuragochi as the composer of works they have featured, and music label Nippon Columbia Co. is set to stop shipping his CDs and selling his music online.
It's not altogether clear why Samuragochi has chosen to step forward now, though it may be something to do with the impending Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, due to begin this Friday. Japanese figure skater Daisuke Takahashi's routine includes a dance set to Samuragochi's Sonatina for Violin -- one of many pieces not actually written by Samuragochi himself.