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|Native name||すぎやま こういち|
|Birth name||椙山 浩一|
April 11, 1931|
|Associated acts||Hayato Matsuo|
Koichi Sugiyama (すぎやま こういち Sugiyama Kōichi, born April 11, 1931) is a Japanese composer, conductor, and orchestrator. He is also a council member of the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (JASRAC), board member of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and honorary chairman of the Japanese Backgammon Society. Sugiyama is best known for composing the music for the Dragon Quest video game series, which is published by Square Enix, along with several other Japanese anime, film, and television shows. A classically trained conductor, Sugiyama is considered a major inspiration for other Japanese game music composers, such as Nobuo Uematsu, and was once referred to as the "big boss of game music".
Early life and television career
Sugiyama was born in Tokyo, Japan. While growing up, Sugiyama's home was filled with music, which ultimately inspired his passion. In high school, he began to recognize his passion, and wrote various small musical works.
After graduating from the University of Tokyo with full honours in 1958, he went into the reporting and entertainment sections of cultural broadcasting. In addition, he joined the Fuji Telecasting Co. as a director. In 1965, he left the telecasting company as a freelance director, and in 1968, he quit directing and concentrated solely on musical composition and orchestration.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Sugiyama composed for musicals, commercials, pop artists, and for animated movies and television shows, such as Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie, The Sea Prince and the Fire Child, and Cyborg 009. He also assisted Riichiro Manabe with the composition for Godzilla vs. Hedorah, composing the record single of the soundtrack, and conducting for some of the tracks.
Dragon Quest and video game career
Sugiyama's first contact with Enix was by a fan letter he wrote them regarding a PC shogi game in the early 1980s. After Enix's staff overcame the shock of receiving a handwritten postcard from a celebrity of Sugiyama's stature, they were so impressed by his depth of knowledge and appreciation of games that they decided to ask Sugiyama to create music for their games.
Sugiyama started composing for the PC-8801, and was working for Enix at the time. His first project with Enix was the 1985 game World Golf. In 1986, he composed for his first major project, Dragon Quest, for the Famicom. Dragon Quest would become the series he was most known for. Sugiyama says it took him five minutes to compose the original opening theme. His classical score for the game was considered revolutionary for console video game music.
Sugiyama was the first video game composer to record his video game music with a live orchestra. In 1986, the CD, Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite, was released, utilizing the London Philharmonic Orchestra to interpret Sugiyama's melodies. The soundtrack's eight melodies (Opening, Castle, Town, Field, Dungeon, Battle, Final Battle, and Ending) set the template for most role-playing video game soundtracks released since then, hundreds of which have been organized in a similar manner.
In 1987, he composed for Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line, and then held the very first video game music concert in history. "Family Classic Concert" was arranged and conducted by Sugiyama himself. It was performed by the Tokyo String Music Combination Playing Group on August 20, 1987 at Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan. "Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite" and "Dragon Quest II Symphonic Suite" were performed. The "Family Classic Concerts" have always had excellent turn outs; since then, Sugiyama has held over eighteen of them all across Japan.
From 1987 to 1990, Sugiyama continued to compose for various other Enix games. In 1991, he introduced a series of video game music concerts, five in all, called the Orchestral Game Concerts, which were performed by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra and Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. The performances included over eighteen different video game composers, such as Koji Kondo, Yoko Kanno, Nobuo Uematsu, Keiichi Suzuki, as well as Sugiyama himself. These concerts were held from 1991 to 1996; during this time, Sugiyama composed for other video games and arranged for some of them to be performed in the Orchestral Game Concerts.
In September 1995, Sugiyama composed the Dragon Quest Ballet. It premiered in 1996, and returned in 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2002. During those years, he also released the Symphonic Suites for the Dragon Quest games he had worked on thus far. In late 2004, he finished and released the Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King soundtrack, and conducted the Dragon Quest VIII Symphonic Suite in 2005.
In 2005, Sugiyama was holding a series of concerts in Japan with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra with music from Dragon Quest VIII, as well as his classic compositions from the past. In August 2005, his music from Dragon Quest was performed live at the European Symphonic Game Music Concert. There, for the first time, his music was presented in a live symphonic concert outside Japan. Sugiyama returned once again to compose the music for Dragon Quest X, and its expansions Nemureru Yuusha to Michibiki no Meiyuu Online and Inishie no Ryuu no Denshou Online.
Sugiyama's non-work related hobbies include photography, traveling, building model ships, collecting old cameras, and reading. He has opened a camera section on his website, and he also has his own record label "SUGI Label" which he started on June 23, 2004. Sugiyama also has completed other projects, such as the fanfares for the opening and closing of the gates in the Tokyo Race Track and the Nakayama Race Track.
Throughout Sugiyama's works, motifs repeat themselves to maintain a consistency and nostalgic quality in the different installments. This is especially true for the Dragon Quest series. Each of the games include a nearly identical, upbeat theme song titled "Overture." In addition, Dragon Quest III-IX include a simple, casual tune on the saved game selection screen titled "Intermezzo."
Sugiyama's style of composition has been compared to late Baroque and early Classical period styles. Composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Gustav Mahler, and George Frideric Handel are some of his inspirations, along with the type of melodic styles heard during the mid-20th century of American cinema. The influence of Arnold Schoenberg can also be heard in some of his more experimental compositions, notably starting from Dragon Quest IV.
Film and television
|1967||Skyers 5||Opening theme only|
|1971||The Return for Ultraman|
|1978||Science Ninja Team Gatchaman: The Movie|
|Jigoku no Mushi|
|1980||Space Runaway Ideon|
|Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy|
|1981||The Sea Prince and the Fire Child|
|1989||Godzilla vs. Biollante|
|1991||Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai||Re-used composition|
|1992||Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibōken Tachiagare!! Aban no Shito|
|Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibōken Buchiya bure!! Shinsei Rokudai Shoguo|
|1994||Magic Knight Rayearth||Supervised the score by Hayato Matsuo|
|1995||Magic Knight Rayearth 2|
Political activities and controversy
In 2007, the United States House of Representatives passed House Resolution 121, seeking an official apology from the Government of Japan regarding so-called "comfort women", women who were used as sexual slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Sugiyama was opposed to this resolution, stating that he believed the evidence surrounding the Nanking Massacre and comfort women was selective in nature. His first attempt at publishing his opposition (a full-page letter titled "The Facts") was initially rejected by the Washington Post and New York Times. However, the Washington Post would eventually agree to publish it.
In 2012, Sugiyama wrote an editorial where he thought that Japan was in a state of "civil war between Japanese and anti-Japanese". Giving examples, he argued that the Japanese media portrayed acts of patriotism negatively, such as performing the National Anthem of Japan or raising the Japanese flag. In addition, he thought that the demands of the Japanese anti-nuclear movement, which grew following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, to immediately dismantle all nuclear energy facilities without offering any alternative solutions damaged the country's ability to defend itself.
In 2015, Sugiyama made an appearance on the Japanese Culture Channel Sakura television program Hi Izuru Kuni Yori in which he was shown agreeing with views shared by Japanese politician Mio Sugita that claimed there was no need for LGBT education in schools, as well as dismissing concerns about high suicide rates among the community. Sugiyama added that the lack of children born from homosexual couples was an important topic to discuss, also suggesting that Japan was more empowering to women than South Korea.
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- Official website (in Japanese)