February 6, 2014

Exception that proves rule proves unexceptional

I'm a big fan of the cognitive utility of the old phrase: "The exception that proves the rule." But then I'm kind of an exception in that regard, since anytime I mention I like that, I get deluged with logical and etymological objections. 

I merely mean that an exception that is famous for being exceptional suggests a general tendency in the opposite direction. The canonical example is that Beethoven's titanic fame as a deaf composer suggests that most composers aren't deaf, while, say, the lack of obsessive publicity about painter David Hockney's late onset deafness suggests that deafness isn't all that big of a deal, one way or another, to painters. Judging from the immortal fame of Beethoven's battle with deafness, we can assume that there aren't many deaf composers, while the ho-hum response to Hockney's deafness suggests that we can't make strong quantitative assumptions about painters and deafness.

Recently in Japan there has arisen an exception to my canonical exception: a popular deaf composer named Mamoru Samuragochi. 

From the NYT:
Renowned Japanese Composer Admits Fraud 

TOKYO — He was celebrated as a prolific musical genius whose compositions appeared in popular video games and the competition routine of a top figure skater in the coming Sochi Olympics. His deafness won him praise as Japan’s modern-day Beethoven. 
It turns out his magnum opus was his own masquerade. 
On Thursday, Japan learned that one of its most popular musical figures, Mamoru Samuragochi, 50, had staged an elaborate hoax in which someone else had secretly written his most famous compositions, and he had perhaps even faked his hearing disability. 
Across a nation long captivated by Western classical music, people reacted with remorse, outrage and even the rare threat of a lawsuit after Mr. Samuragochi’s revelations that he had hired a ghostwriter since the 1990s to compose most of his music. The anger turned to disbelief when the ghostwriter himself came forward to accuse Mr. Samuragochi of faking his deafness, apparently to win public sympathy and shape the Beethoven persona. 
The scandal began on Wednesday, when Mr. Samuragochi publicly confessed that someone else had written his most famous works. These include Symphony No. 1 “Hiroshima,” about the 1945 atomic bombing of his home city, which became a classical music hit in Japan; the theme music for the video games Resident Evil and Onimusha; and Sonatina for Violin, which the Japanese Olympic figure skater Daisuke Takahashi is scheduled to use in his short program performance at the Winter Games in Sochi.

The timing could hardly have been worse for Mr. Takahashi, a potential medalist who won the bronze in the Vancouver Olympics four years ago. He said in a statement that he would continue to skate to the musical piece — he really had little choice with scant time left before the competition — and hoped the revelations would not overshadow his performance. 
... The reason for this sudden repentance became clear on Thursday when the ghostwriter revealed himself to be Takashi Niigaki, 43, a hitherto largely unknown part-time lecturer at a prestigious music college in Tokyo. Mr. Niigaki said he had written more than 20 songs for Mr. Samuragochi since 1996, for which he received the equivalent of about $70,000.
He said he felt so guilty about the deception that he had threatened to go public in the past, but Mr. Samuragochi had begged him not to. He said he finally could not take it anymore when he learned one of his songs would be used by the Olympic skater. He told his story to a weekly tabloid, which went on sale Thursday.
“He told me that if I didn’t write songs for him, he’d commit suicide,” Mr. Niigaki told a crowded news conference. “But I could not bear the thought of skater Takahashi being seen by the world as a co-conspirator in our crime.” 
Perhaps just as shocking was Mr. Niigaki’s assertion that Mr. Samuragochi was never deaf. Mr. Niigaki said that he had regular conversations with Mr. Samuragochi, who listened to and commented on his compositions. Mr. Niigaki said the deafness was just “an act that he was performing to the outside world.”


Anonymous said...

Give the man a break.

If illegals are legal in the US, lie is truth.

Anonymous said...

I guess there were too many sacred cows here.



Struggle against adversity.

Inspiring story.

Yabba dabba do. So, the Japanese media didn't look into it properly.

Same in the US. We have the fiction that Obama rose from adversity and blah blah when he was shoehorned in by the most powerful elites of this country who control the media, banks, and academia.

Obama symphony is so phony. Dreamwork from his cronies.

Phony just like his Nobel prize.

Anonymous said...

The guy's deafness itself was faked.

Dave Pinsen said...

Reminds me a bit of Haruki Murakami's recent novel 1Q84, in which a literary fraud figures prominently.

pat said...

Few people know that Bach was blind, or that Handle was also blind. And fewest yet that both were blinded by the same doctor.


C. Van Carter said...

I've always been suspicious of the whole Helen Keller thing.

Daniel said...

Good ol' fashioned conman. I love it.

Svigor said...

Pretending to be deaf = uber-grind.

Badden said...

Reminds me of the other time something like this happened with a Japanese vid'ya game music composer...


Auntie Analogue said...

Didja hear the one about...?


Reg Cæsar said...

Yes, but will we ever really know who wrote the hit songs of the Dave Clark Five?

Reg Cæsar said...

Beethoven was half-Flemish. (Hence, or whence, the "van".) He could just as easily have become a deaf painter. And we wouldn't have cared.

Toulouse-Lautrec was squat and homely, yet managed to get beautiful models to strip for him. Now there's an exception. But having both a city and a hyphen in his name probably helped.

jody said...

the japanese milli vanilli.

Auntie Analogue said...

"the Japanese milli vanilli."

Did you mean "mirri vanirri"?

Foreign Expert said...

"the Japanese milli vanilli."

Did you mean "mirri vanirri"?
Try Miri Baniri.

Anonymous said...

The idea of an exception that proves the rule bugged me for years. Then I saw Michael Jordan do it in the Olympics. He drove against a zone defense. Very hard rule - never drive against a zone. No problem for MJ. When a defender got squarely in his way he just jumped over him and dunked on the way down. OK, if you're MJ you can drive against a zone - It just makes the good sense of the rule more obvious.

Bryan Townsend said...

The only other composer I know of who went deaf, but continued to compose, was Bedřich Smetana, who was deaf for the last decade of his life during which he composed a number of his best-known works. But there are no others that I know of--certainly not of Beethoven's calibre.