I have never thought that the online piano playing recording stream of Mr. Ryuichi Sakamoto I watched at the end of 2022 would be the last farewell to this professor. I’m not a fan of Ryuichi Sakamoto. I know him, though not much. In fact, If it wasn’t for an almost fanatical recommendation from one my friend who studied music in Japan, I would not know that he is the creator of “Energy Flow” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence“, which I looped frequently when I was junior high.
Pandemic, unemployment, economic recession, every era seems to be the “worst one”. Looking back at these “worst periods” in history, the creations of artists in extraordinary times have different values and meanings to the times. Music, as a form of art, not only tells the creator’s ideological expression and spiritual pursuit but also reflects the economic status and changing trends of society. In 1999, Energy Flow became the first instrumental track to top Japan’s Oricon chart. While, Mr. Ryuichi Sakamoto wrote this music to the people who were stressed by the lost decade.
The creation of music carries human emotions, social ideals and artistic pursuits, and is shaped by a social economy and modern technology. With the improvement of social media, music has gradually formed a complete commercialization path and industrial chain, from a word of mouth, to the prosperity of the recording industry in the last century, and then to the digital music today. However, with the rise of digital media, music has become increasingly affordable and people cannot wait to consume the latest and most popular ones. I don’t know when it started, whenever the question is “what music you’ve been listening to recently?”, the answers are ambiguous: “the soundtrack of the movie”, “various”, “I don’t know the name”, or just throwing a song Link. Platform subscription and copyright issues have plagued creators’ pricing power over compositions all the time. Even other commercial activities in the name of music, such as idol activities or music competition shows, are the focus. Fans frantically buy albums for their favorite idols, regardless of the quality of the music; Audience buys a lot of the show co-branded products in order to get the right to vote for contestants. Various phenomena present that the music is being packaged by other kinds of entertainment consumptions. People don’t pay for the music itself, and even the music is just a bonus of a certain entertainment event, a movie, the background of sports or work, or even just a topic of conversation. What about the value of the music itself? I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve been to a record store. One afternoon, standing in the store with headphones on just to listen to music, gone forever. However, there is another side to the story. During the epidemic, whether it is an online concert by a professional musician or a private performance clip shared by an individual enthusiast on social media, these pieces still perform one of the most simple functions of music: to make people feel better in difficult times.
With the continuous development and progress of the modern economy, society has more needs and requirements for music. Music has become a commodity, but the market can not simply capture even the pleasure and sadness us feel while listening for pricing and commercialization. Each individual’s aesthetic preferences should give the music itself an individual value. Across the world, the impact of COVID-19 on popular music is that more and more amateur musicians are writing songs in their bedrooms to generate income and boost the economy. This brings an alternative idea: When the trend of commercial operations and music shows are fading away, and the trend of self-media makes music channel almost free, the utopian potential of music may not disappear and brings more opportunities for creators’ voice.