“Ryuichi was always looking for different ways of understanding music,” explains Todd Eckert, director of Kagami, an ambitious ‘mixed reality’ collaboration with the late, great Ryuichi Sakamoto. “It’s not about technology, even though that’s fundamental to what we’re doing. The whole point of this is the ongoing connection between an artist and their audience.”
Due to premiere in June at the Manchester International Festival and The Shed in New York, Kagami promises a new kind of concert experience. Audience members will view the virtual Sakamoto performing on piano via optically treated glasses, each song in surround sound and accompanied by its own set of visuals. The footage of Sakamoto, who developed the idea over four years with Eckert’s Tin Drum company, was captured by 48 different cameras, allowing people to wander around the stage and watch from different perspectives.
“He was always wonderful to be around,” says Eckert, whose friendship with Sakamoto dates back to the late ’90s. “He would tell the most surprising, human, candid stories. He told me that when he was a child, his teacher asked him, ‘What do you want to be when you’re an adult?’ He said, ‘I want to be nothing.’ It wasn’t nihilism, but more like, ‘I want to exist between the planes.’ And you could see in his eyes, during Kagami, he was feeling that again. He looked at me and said, ‘Weird kid, huh?’”
Eckert reveals that Kagami’s setlist will include a few surprises, among them the first ever ‘live’ outing for “The Seed And The Sower” from Sakamoto’s ravishing soundtrack to 1983’s Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, and a previously unheard tribute to Bernardo Bertolucci, for whom he scored 1987’s epic The Last Emperor.
“Ryuichi and I were in Tokyo and he pulled out this piece of sheet music from his bag. He said, ‘Bertolucci was like a spiritual father to me. When he died, I just walked into my studio and I played how I felt about him. The only people that have ever heard this song are his family at the funeral.’ So that’s what we conclude with.”
In its own distinct way, Kagami guarantees Sakamoto’s immortality. It was an idea not lost on the man himself. “This virtual me will not age, and will continue to play the piano for years, decades, centuries,” he reflected, in notes on the show written before his death from cancer in March. In the words of Sakamoto’s favourite saying, widely shared after his passing, “Art is long, life is short”.