A decade ago, the groundbreaking documentary on Jacques Derrida, Derrida, was released around the world to celebrate to elusive philosopher. Ryuichi Sakamoto composed 29 short pieces inspired by Derrida the fill the soundtrack to the documentary. The tracks, simply called "jd" (Jacques Derrida) and followed by a number, range from warm, minimalist piano trills (as in "Jd017") to haunting soundscapes ("Jd022") to chilling electronic echoes of a distopian present and future ("Jd029").
The range of tones and themes loosely played with by Sakamato brilliantly mirrors not only the intellectual contributions of Derrida to literature, philosophy, and thought, but also the man himself. Famously refusing to be photographed until 1979, Derrida's increasing visibility and even celebrity peaked with the release of Derrida, a mere two years before his death. The documentary, appearing in full here, documents both symbolic moments in Derrida's life, such as his visit to Nelson Mandela's jail cell, and the mundane day-to-day details of Derrida's life.
After a brief scene in which he tries to find a camera-worthy matching ensemble, Derrida himself says that the "traditional philosophy excludes biography, considers biography as something external to philosophy." This examination of Derrida rejects the traditionalists and shows that the life of an author and his philosophy are necessarily intertwined (an idea Derrida discusses explicitly in the 1970s and 1980s). As the filmmakers attempt to deconstruct the life of Derrida and his work, Derrida himself engages in destructively deconstructing the film, the nature of memory and human interraction, and the very idea of seeing and understanding.
To have the soundtrack of Derrida composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto is fitting. Sakamoto's career is marked by brilliant deconstructions of rhythm, of texture, of sound, making his audience question what, exactly, it means to hear and to listen (two verbs which are not by any means synonymous). Like the documentary, the premise of the soundtrack is superficially dull -- an instrumental, stripped-down interpretations of a philosopher whose own work is difficult, confusing, and problematic. However, both prove to be incredibly entertaining, enjoyable, and thoughtful reflections on how life, whether through sound or through film, can be best represented.
More text and video clips below...
Understanding Derrida is impossible. However, getting a "feel" for Derrida and his logic and methodology is feasible -- see some clips of Derrida from the documentary below to get a better idea of the man for whom Sakamoto scored the Derrida.
Derrida on the can-do, get-'er-done "American Attitude" -
Derrida on "animals" -- "For me, there are not 'animals.' When one says, 'animals,' one has already started to not understand anything, and has started to enclose the animal into a cage." Check out The Animal That Therefore I Am, Derrida's ruminations on the role of the "animal" in philosophers' work.
Derrida explaining the meaning of the "public image" and why he forbade the publication of his own image.