East Asian Humanities Workshop: Frank Mondelli "Authentic Audition: The Veneration and Vilification of a 'Fake' Beethoven"

Thu December 2nd 2021, 3:30 - 5:00pm
Event Sponsor
East Asian Humanities Workshop
East Asia Library Room 338
Admission Information

Please RSVP by Wednesday, December 1st.

Frank Mondelli

“Astonishing Scoop! The Completely Deaf Composer Samuragōchi Mamoru – the Modern Beethoven – is a Fraud! Ghost Writer Confesses and Reveals His True Name” howls the page of a popular weekly magazine in February 2014. In response, the “miracle composer” Samuragōchi organized a press conference in an attempt to clear his name. He acknowledged that he had used a ghost writer, but proclaimed he did suffer from debilitating hearing impairment. Unfortunately for him, the press conference only solidified his status as an object of widespread derision and ridicule, with his figure frequently appearing in online memes, videos, variety shows, and comedy broadcasting. While it may be easy to read these media objects of scorn as simply sources of a cheap laugh at the expense of a charlatan, their contents often reveal a deep sense of unease and dread about the circumstances of his rise to fame and the true nature of his disability.

In this presentation, I examine popular media coverage of Samuragōchi before and after the outbreak of the scandal in order to ask about social anxieties underlying the concepts of D/deaf musicianship, uncertainty surrounding the deaf body, and the nature of mediated truth. Why was Samuragōchi a cult figure in the first place, and why was he so reviled post-scandal? I argue that this popular coverage presents a critique of deaf performance, both in terms of performing as a D/deaf musician and in terms of performing Deafness itself. Furthermore, I argue this critique reveals deep anxieties about the power and authenticity of social “audition” – both in terms of the sense of hearing and in terms of the sense of evaluation. Bringing together Japanese symphonic performance and Western musical traditions, classical music and video game music, sensory and mobile disabilities, personal trauma and national trauma, this presentation embraces recent methodologies developed in the emerging field of disability media studies.


Frank Mondelli is a PhD Candidate in Japanese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at  Stanford University. He studies media and disability in 20th century and contemporary Japan. His dissertation explores the historical relationship between deafness, music, and assistive technology through an analysis of the socio-technical dimensions of hearing aids, tactile technologies, sign language media, and D/deaf musical performance. His broader research and teaching interests span across the disciplines of Japanese studies, media disability studies, and STS (Science, Technology, and Society), focusing on topics such as public infrastructure and popular media.