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The Impact of Music at The Olympics

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In the chase to be a celebrity composer, the checkpoints are a bit blurry.

Whether musicians sketch out notes and then hire composers to write what they're describing, or those musicians decide to conduct a piece that they arranged and composed themselves, music composition will always be a tough industry.

The nature of that doggedness was evident this week as we learned about the deaf Japanese composer, Mamoru Samuragochi, who revealed to those who gave him the misnomer of "modern day Beethoven" that a ghostwriter has written most of his famous works for the last two decades. The confession came a day before his ghostwriter, Takashi Niigaki, revealed that Samuragochi could also be lying about his hearing impairment.

While some people are surprised that figure skater Daisuke Takahashi, a 2010 Vancouver Olympics bronze medalist will still skate to a Samuragochi piece in Thursday's men's short program in Sochi, Keane Ishii understands why some Olympic athletes are more concerned about artistry than association: "There's a certain type of script in sports and the moments in those scripts are completed by audio dimensions. The completion of the moment is intensely human."

Keane, Director of Music for Holy Nativity Church in Honolulu, has enjoyed watching the Sochi Olympics, largely because of the music. "Russia has a rich musical history. I love listening to the songs because the tempo and tone quality are uniquely Russian. The impact of the music is immeasurable. Even in music that's instrumental, there's still lyrics to it because it's tied to the language."

I caught up with Jim Bell, the Executive Producer of NBC Olympics, and arguably the most sincere person in television production, and his spokesperson, who took time out of his busy schedule to call me from Russia:

Music plays an integral part in our storytelling process. Our feature producers spend many hours listening to dozens of music cues that they feel will enhance and amplify the tone and direction of a story. The NBC Sports Group has a number of agreements with first-class production music groups. We are able to access an abundance of diverse instrumental pieces through an extensive music database.

While NBC Sports can not choose the music that is played during the figure skating competitions, they can choose the music that plays immediately after Takahashi finishes skating, and therein lies the potential for impact. Keane, a Japanese-American born in Oahu, directs three choirs and teaches guitar and advanced music theory at Mililani High School. As a Chorus member of the Hawaii Opera Theatre and a baritone soloist for the Bach Chamber Orchestra and the Kona Music Society, Keane was disappointed by the Samuragochi ghostwriting confession, but not surprised:

There are many excellent composers who just aren't able to secure the kind of notoriety necessary to sustain a paying career. That's why it's not surprising that someone like Samuragochi would look for an 'edge'. So many composers skate by without being good enough.

Japan, the origin of the Suzuki method, has always been fond of classical music. Beethoven is revered in the country and honored with what the Japanese called The Daiku, or Big Nine, to commemorate Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. So, with this cultural love of Beethoven, why did Niigaki wait so long to admit that the "Japanese Beethoven" is possibly a mockery to the legend his country exalts? It was only when Niigaki learned that the Samuragochi song would be played during the Olympics that he decided to confess.

The Olympics seemingly command honesty in thought, word, and reed.