After American Temple
Grandin and British artists Stephen Wilshire, in this week’s Autism Success
Story we carry on casting the net wide and profile Japanese Hikari Ōe. This is the third
in a series of guest articles from Autism Care UK, a leading provider of autism support services and autism care homes.
is Hikari Ōe?
Born in Japan, Hikari Ōe is a famous classical composer and
son of the Nobel Prize winning author Kenzaburō Ōe. Hirkari was born in 1963 with a
life-threatening growth on his brain. The growth was so large that it made him
appear two-headed and doctors gave his parents a cruel choice either let their
son die or subject him to an operation that, if he survived, would leave him
severely brain-damaged and in all likelihood incapable of living a normal life.
The doctors urged his parents to let him die, but they refused and opted for
the surgical option. From this traumatic start to his life Hikari has gone on
sell over millions of records’ worldwide.
In the Spotlight
His first CD, which he released in 1992 at the age of 29, comprised of 25
short piano solos and piano and flute compositions. His second collection
included the violin as well as piano and flute was also a commercial success as
have all his subsequence releases. The Ōe family have also been subject of a television
documentary broadcast on NHK, the Japanese government broadcasting network. It
was during this show that Kenzaburo announced his intention to stop writing
fiction as his son had now found his voice. It was a few months after this
broadcast in October that he won his Nobel Prize.
Hikari’s first releases in the
United States sold out during the first week, despite little publicity and
marketing. With the music industry such as it is, this is virtually unheard off
as record labels spends millions on promoting albums and singles through print,
television and digital advertising. The reason behind why these little
publicised CD’s sold so well was purely because the beauty of the music, which
unusually for a classical composer are short tracks, predominately under 3
minutes long each.
experience of Autism.
Hikari’s parents had to make an
incredibly difficult decision early on in his life, whether to operate or let
their son die. The decision to raise a child like
Hikari - uncoordinated, incontinent, autistic, with crossed eyes and poor
vision, subject to seizures and scarcely able to communicate - took even more
courage than it would today.
Despite the doctor’s urging them
not too, they opted for the surgical option. Hikari did not speak until he was
six years old, when he identified a birdcall as a water rail. He had previously
been given a record featuring 70 birdcalls and had memorised them. By the age
of 11 he was showing a love and talent for classical music, and was using piano
lessons as a part of his therapy. At the tender age of 13 he began composing
his own pieces. Even in his adult life Hikari’s language
abilities remain what many people would call rudimentary. Despite struggling
with the names for everyday objects he is able to remember music easily. For
example when he hears am extract of Mozarthe is able to identify it by its Kochel number. He started piano lessons as part of his therapy
due to his sensitivity to sound. With his physical coordination being erratic
he initially struggled. But his extraordinary musical ability soon became
obvious, and as they say, the rest is history.