‘Deaf’ composer admits fraud

‘Deaf’ composer admits fraud


norman lebrecht

February 05, 2014

A Japanese composer who continued writing symphonies after going deaf has confessed to paying someone else to write them.

Beethoven, so far as is known, didn’t.

Story here.

From the sound of it, the composers Mamoru Samuragochi paid were Brahms, Mahler and Strauss.



  • ed says:

    This is a great example of the power of myth and branding- in this case the composer’s loss of hearing which somehow made the work he peddled as his own more special than it was- as opposed to the quality of the (derivative) writing itself. Not unlike a one-legged man winning a butt kicking contest, where we find out later that the guy was using someone else’s leg(s), and everyone’s angry- especially the record companies that were making fantastic profits off the sales. A delicious story. After all the apologies, maybe the guy will have the moxie to make a behind the scenes documentary on the making of the hoax, and it will turn out to be another best seller. Wonder how much of the winnings he shared with his ghost writers.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      So if you are a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest, how do you use someone else’s leg? I have a hard time picturing that.

      • robcat2075 says:

        Keep everyone in the dark during the contest.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          But if everyone is in the dark, then presumably so are you, too, so how do kick butt in the dark, how do you aim, whether with one leg or two?

          Sorry about all the questions, I don’t know much about butt kicking contests, I have never participated in one.

      • ed says:

        That’s the beauty of it, and of branding (and of ’emperor’s new clothes’) generally, you believe the impossible because everyone else has been programmed to think they saw it (and act as if they did), only to realize later that you didn’t and couldn’t have. By the way, it now appears that the guy’s hearing was not impaired after all, even if his compositional ability, and that of his ghost writer was.

        ( See: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b8580758-8f25-11e3-be85-00144feab7de.html?ftcamp=crm/email/201426/nbe/AsiaMorningHeadlines/product&siteedition=uk#axzz2sbPsQ4pT )

        The tale is even more delicious than originally reported.

        • ed says:

          Meant to say: “……you believe you saw the impossible…..” It’s the big lie.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          ed says:

          February 7, 2014 at 3:45 am

          “That’s the beauty of it, and of branding (and of ‘emperor’s new clothes’) generally, you believe the impossible because everyone else has been programmed to think they saw it (and act as if they did)”

          Oh, you mean like “I saw this guy rise from the dead!” – “So did I!” – “I did, too!” – “He even talked to me!” – “Oh, yes, really? He didn’t just talk to me, he even told me I was his favorite!” – “Oh you think he only told you that? He told me that, too!” – “No, that’s what he told ME!” – stuff like that, right?

  • Mikey says:

    This makes me angry, as a composer, but not because of the fraud. Because it’s simply so blatantly derivative and unoriginal. Why does this anger me?

    Because I am a composer who prefers to use tools that are rooted in tonality. And this type of blatant imitation smacks of laziness. I write tonal music. But I also work hard to try and create something that IS new, something that comes uniquely from me. The LAST thing I want to hear from someone is “it sounds like (insert composer)”.

    And yet, the public eats up this imitation crap, record sales were through the roof.

    Do I have to fake some malady to get record sales like that?

    So as it turns out, Samuragochi-san was a fraud on at least two counts: he lacked any visible signs of original thought, and he didn’t write his own music.

    Well guys, look me up when I’m dead. At least I have my integrity.

    • DrewX says:

      I think it’s worth pointing out that tastes in Japan run somewhat differently than tastes in Europe and America. I mean, every culture has its trends and likes and dislikes. Perhaps Japanese audiences are just more into this kind of thing. European audiences are somewhat more likely to accept avant-garde or nontraditional things. America is in the middle. You know how it goes. I certainly don’t like this kind of music but I don’t judge all the people who do.

  • robcat2075 says:

    So I guess he literally bought this music without hearing it? Since he’s completely deaf he has no idea what he has put out under his name.

    It’s interesting that we readily accept ghost-writing in literature with just an occasional complaint.

  • Mikey says:

    Isn’t “ghost writing” in literature more the domain of biographies and tell-all books?

    But I doubt anyone would accept a ghost-written novel as being great literature.

    Here, we were being asked to accept the music as a “Great work of art” created by the composer.

    • Donald Wright says:

      An exception in the literary arena might be Dumas père, who employed entire factories of writer-bees to churn out stories by the dozens under his name, and who used Auguste Maquet, without crediting him (even after Maquet sued him), to design the plots and general outlines of some of his greatest novels. The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers (and its several sequels) are still regarded by millions as great literature.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Yes, and what’s up with those gospel guys – major, major bestsellers all of them, and we don’t even know if “Mark”, “Matthew”, “Luke” or “John” wrote any of that stuff. If the truth ever comes to light, I see some massive law suits over royalties coming up.

        • ed says:

          Why not be more inclusive? There were, after all, many prophets before (and after) the four you mentioned. Almost like the gods and titans. And if one is an animist think of all the plants and animals that should get a cut, or better yet a break.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Those four guys, whoever they may have been, weren’t prophets, they were just apostles. Prophets receive divine revelations (or at least they claim they do), apostles just pass on the message. Of course, that complicates the whole question of copyright even more. Would the apostles be entitled to royalties? That is, if they weren’t dead. But then again, according to some they are in heaven now. Can they receive royalties there? Or could they be sued for breach of copyright themselves because they just rehashed material created by others?

          • ed says:

            Michael- You are right. I stand corrected. The four were “just apostles” conveying the revelation or prophesy. So, maybe how about a sublicense for those guys? Regardless, that needn’t discount the value of the underlying message, even if it has more often than not been ignored or twisted by the fellas with the guns.

          • ed says:

            Or, prophets or not, maybe the apostles should share in the royalty because of their different contributions to the discourse? Alternatively, is there a plagiarism issue?

            Michael, you have led us to new plane of theology, ethics and commercial law.

      • Robert says:

        Colette’s husband had a whole team of ghostwriters (including, for a while, Colette) to produce most of the output that appeared under his name.

      • ed says:

        The same with some of the great Renaissance and Baroque painters whose studios employed apprentices and others to churn out some of the work.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          That’s a little different because they didn’t see that kind of work as particularly creative, more as a craft. So the master would lay out the painting and make all the artistic decisions and then tell the apprentices how to complete the painting. Which is why it is so difficult today to tell which ones are all by the master’s own hand and which ones come “from the studio of…”. Because the apprentices did not develop or were allowed to use their own style until they had become masters themselves.

  • Michael Schaffer says:

    Everybody knows about Beethoven, but it is less well known that Smetana also went deaf at some point in his life. And he composed the whole of the wonderful “My Country” cycle when he was already completely deaf.

    • ALBERT LANDA says:

      i have always thought that Smetana’s problem was TINITUS, an irksome enough problem for anyone let alone a composer. Deafness? Well, I’ll have to Wikapaedia that one.

  • M. L. Liu says:

    It has now been revealed that the ghost composer is Aragaki Takashi, who served as part-time lecturer at the Toho Gakuen School of Music Composition Department. In the upcoming Winter Olympics, “Sonatina for violin”, a composition previously attributed to Mamoru Samuragochi, will still be used in the short program of Japanese figure skater Takahashi Daisuke. [Source: http://shukan.bunshun.jp/articles/-/3627%5D

    • ed says:

      Thanks for the update and citation.

    • cabbagejuice says:

      I thought they stopped writing Sonatinas about 200 years ago… Did this team also write Nocturnes and Mazurkas?

      Something I noticed over the years about 2nd rate or less composers who have urges to write Waltzes and Inventions, etc., theirs is a habit of preempting forms without reference to the cultural setting or current state of musical development. Adopting an already extant mythology about the life of a composer makes their play-acting even more beloved by the public.

  • Mikey says:

    and from latest reports, it would seem that the deaf composer wasn’t deaf, either.

  • Yes, we do all indeed know about Beethoven’s deafness, but I’m not so sure about your assertion, Norman, that “Beethoven, so far as is known, didn’t” do this kind of thing; in the ordinary course of events, no, of course he didn’t, but did he not make some kind of exception by engaging the as yet unborn Samuel Beckett to write his Op. 70 No. 1?…

  • cabbagejuice says:

    All this brings up fond memories of “the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of.” (Boston Globe, 2005) – the Joyce Hatto scam, of course, that fooled otherwise intelligent musicians and critics.