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  • Born

    11 April 1931 (age 86)

  • Born In

    Tokyo, Japan

Koichi Sugiyama (すぎやまこういち, Sugiyama Kōichi) (his birth name is 椙山浩一, which is pronounced the same) (born April 11, 1931) is a Japanese music composer, council member of JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers), and honorary chairman of the Japanese Backgammon Society. He is best known composing music for the Dragon Quest video game series from Enix (later Square Enix) and several Japanese TV shows such as Space Runaway Ideon, Cyborg 009, and Gatchaman. A classically trained conductor, he is considered a primary inspiration by other game music composers such as Nobuo Uematsu, and has been referred to as a "Big boss of game music." He is also known as a Japanese right-winged intellectual.

Koichi Sugiyama was born in Tokyo, Japan. While he was growing up, Sugiyama’s home was filled with music which ultimately inspired his passion. In high school, he began to act out this passion, and wrote various small musical works.

After graduating from University of Tokyo with full honors 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 on music composition.

Later on, during the late 70s to early 80s, Sugiyama would compose for musicals, commercials, pop artists, and also for animated movies and television shows, such as Kagaku Ninja Tai Gatchaman, The Sea Prince and the Fire Child, Cyborg 009, and Patlabor.

Sugiyama started composing with a NEC PC-8801, and was working for Enix (now known as Square Enix). In 1986 he composed for the hit RPG video game Dragon Quest for the Nintendo Entertainment System. That game became something like an orchestral introduction to younger people in Japan. Sugiyama is the very 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.

In 1987 he composed for Dragon Quest II, and then held the very first video game music concert in the world. “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 done exceptionally well with audiences every time; since then, Sugiyama has held over eighteen of them all across Japan.

Sugiyama continued to compose for video games from 1987 to 1990. 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, Kentarou Haneda, 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 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 came back in 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2002. During those years, Koichi also released the Symphonic Suites for the Dragon Quest games he had worked on thus far. During these years, the Dragon Quest series had grown immensely.

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.

Koichi 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 "SUGIlabel" which he started June 23, 2004.

In late 2004, he finished and released the Dragon Quest VIII Original soundtrack, and the Dragon Quest VIII Symphonic Suite as well.

Throughout Sugiyama's works, motifs repeat themselves to maintain a consistency and nostalgic quality in the installments. As an example, all of the Dragon Quest games have included a nearly identical, upbeat theme song titled "Overture." In addition, Dragon Quest III-VIII 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 and George Frideric Handel are most definitely some of his inspirations, along with the type of melodic styles heard during the mid-20th century of American cinema.

In 2005, he was holding a series of concerts in Japan with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra for 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 is also known as a historical revisionalist on Japanese history. Especially on Nanking Massacre and Comfort Women problem, Sugiyama completely denies guilt of Japanese Empire. He is one of the approval person of "The Facts" advertisement on Washington Post. Some Dragon Quest fans out of Japan said they have been dissapointed by his political stance.

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