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Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

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A deeply personal, intimate conversation about music and writing between the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and his close friend, the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Haruki Murakami's passion for music runs deep. Before turning his hand to writing, he ran a jazz club in Tokyo, and from The Beatles' Norwegian Wood to Franz Liszt A deeply personal, intimate conversation about music and writing between the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and his close friend, the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Haruki Murakami's passion for music runs deep. Before turning his hand to writing, he ran a jazz club in Tokyo, and from The Beatles' Norwegian Wood to Franz Liszt's Years of Pilgrimage, the aesthetic and emotional power of music permeates every one of his much-loved books. Now, in Absolutely on Music, Murakami fulfills a personal dream, sitting down with his friend, acclaimed conductor Seiji Ozawa, to talk, over a period of two years, about their shared interest. Transcribed from lengthy conversations about the nature of music and writing, here they discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from record collecting to pop-up orchestras, and much more. Ultimately this book gives readers an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of the two maestros. It is essential reading for book and music lovers everywhere.


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A deeply personal, intimate conversation about music and writing between the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and his close friend, the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Haruki Murakami's passion for music runs deep. Before turning his hand to writing, he ran a jazz club in Tokyo, and from The Beatles' Norwegian Wood to Franz Liszt A deeply personal, intimate conversation about music and writing between the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and his close friend, the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Haruki Murakami's passion for music runs deep. Before turning his hand to writing, he ran a jazz club in Tokyo, and from The Beatles' Norwegian Wood to Franz Liszt's Years of Pilgrimage, the aesthetic and emotional power of music permeates every one of his much-loved books. Now, in Absolutely on Music, Murakami fulfills a personal dream, sitting down with his friend, acclaimed conductor Seiji Ozawa, to talk, over a period of two years, about their shared interest. Transcribed from lengthy conversations about the nature of music and writing, here they discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from record collecting to pop-up orchestras, and much more. Ultimately this book gives readers an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of the two maestros. It is essential reading for book and music lovers everywhere.

30 review for Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    Murakami loves music, any reader of his could tell you as much. Norwegian Wood was named after a Beatles song (albeit one not very well known) and After Dark is framed by a music soundtrack in a brilliant display of atmospheric setting. With this all that love is here. And like all who have a good taste in music, Murakami's is eclectic and very well considered. I found myself looking up musicians after reading this because I found many of his opinions quite convincing. He shares them Murakami loves music, any reader of his could tell you as much. Norwegian Wood was named after a Beatles song (albeit one not very well known) and After Dark is framed by a music soundtrack in a brilliant display of atmospheric setting. With this all that love is here. And like all who have a good taste in music, Murakami's is eclectic and very well considered. I found myself looking up musicians after reading this because I found many of his opinions quite convincing. He shares them with the renowned Seiji Ozawa, former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Murakami admits to a sense of kinship he found in Ozawa; they both produce art, and they go about it in very different ways, though they are both pushed forward with the same sense of drive: an absolute love of their work. It's what they live for; it's who they are. That being said though, it is by no means a one way conversation. In matters of music Ozawa is the master and Murakami a mere amateur; however, they still both respect and admire each other's opinions. They question each other to learn more as their friendship grows. They discuss music ranging from Beethoven to all manner of operas, and due to the nature of Ozawa's music the discussions mainly rest on classical music rather than anything more up-beat. I think the more you know about music the more enjoyable you will find this book. I know very little about the formal qualities of music, though I feel like I learnt a little bit whilst reading this. For someone who knows all the nuances the two discuss, the book will certainly be more enjoyable for them when compared to someone with a pedestrian level of knowledge. What I found most interesting was the comments Murakami made about music and writing; he said that "I am writing as if I'm making music" and goes on to explain what he meant, at least, as best he can to Ozawa. He attributes it to Jazz and the rhythm it produces, arguing that prose has to have rhythm for it to be decent writing; it needs to be moving ever forward, carrying momentum into the next sentence, in order for it to be effective. Ozawa does not fully understand the concept. I don't fully understand it either, but that's unimportant because Murakami does and his success speaks for itself. Such is the nature of art. Ozawa, for his part, appreciated Murakami's enthusiasm despite his lack of technical knowledge and provides a very characteristic afterward reflecting on the nature of the project. For the right reader, this will be immensely entertaining. The two men share a passion for music and it runs through the entirety of their conversations, though you will also need to possess the same passion to appreciate the nature of the book. As such I only recommend it to those who can keep up with the nature of the content as it may wash over others.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    One of the most remarkable evenings of my life was the time I hosted an assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra a couple of years ago. I cooked, wine flowed, and we talked late into the night. I recall it started with his explanation of The Enigma Variations over farro and grilled vegetables and segued into a discussion of what symphonies he most wanted to conduct (with halibut and mango sauce as accompaniment). He went through my music collection (Oh, let’s start with the vinyl.) telling stories or(Oh, One of the most remarkable evenings of my life was the time I hosted an assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra a couple of years ago. I cooked, wine flowed, and we talked late into the night. I recall it started with his explanation of The Enigma Variations over farro and grilled vegetables and segued into a discussion of what symphonies he most wanted to conduct (with halibut and mango sauce as accompaniment). He went through my music collection (Oh, let’s start with the vinyl.) telling stories or giving impressions of the artists. Eventually we stood before the painting The Conductor by Nguyen Thanh Binh, a Vietnamese painter. We stood there, drinks in hand, and I said that to me the piece was not just about a “conductor” but was really about the creation, the moment of creation, of a piece of art. There is as yet this unformed idea. It appears at first glance that the artist is staring into the void. But, oh, there is something out there, like the wind, which is about to explode. It could be a conductor about to summon the first note; or maybe, I said, it could be a trial attorney about to begin his closing argument. My guest stared at the man in black, at the minimalist swaying, and eventually he said, “This is it. You have to understand, they are all first-class musicians, each brilliant; but they are not your friends.” The idea of this book intrigued me: conversations between Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa about music. They, too, ate, drank and talked. Their discussions were, mostly, more structured than the one I described above. Murakami would take a piece of music, say Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, and play it for Ozawa. But he would play different recordings of the piece from his collection: Gould and Karajan, Gould and Bernstein, Serkin and Bernstein, Serkin and Ozawa, Uchida and Sanderling. As the piece played in its various incarnations, Ozawa and Murakami would discuss difference in style and interpretation. That is more musical nuance than I need or, for that matter, am capable of. But the structure allowed for some wonderful insights and phrasings. And tidbits. “Music, of course, is an art that occurs through time,” Ozawa said, in discussing his difficulty in taking an Alban Berg score from reading to understanding. And, quoting Schoenberg (music is not a sound but an idea), Ozawa told Murakami that reading a score of music is an artistic experience. It amazed me that Ozawa never heard Mahler performed until he had started reading scores of Mahler’s symphonies. He knew immediately he had entered a different world. One of the Conversations occurred after Ozawa invited Murakami to attend the Seiji Ozawa International Academy in Switzerland. Very highly skilled string players (in their twenties, mostly) play string quartets under the tutelage of Ozawa and a few others. I can’t begin to describe how jealous I am that Murakami was permitted to observe. Perhaps my favorite Conversation was the one Murakami and Ozawa had about blues and jazz. When he was in Chicago, Ozawa would sneak out at night and visit blues bars. He became such a regular they used to let him sneak in through a side entrance. These are conversations, remember. So, at one point, Ozawa kind of stops their chat and says, “By the way, do they still play the blues in Chicago?” This floored me, and made me do a double- and triple-take, because that line - Do they still play the blues in Chicago? - is the start of the chorus in the great Steve Goodman song, A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HTRx... And, they’re both fans of Junko Onishi. So, as a public service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrOmu... One last thing. I don’t know how they did it, but the transcribed dialogue between Murakami and Ozawa sounded just like two characters talking in a Murakami novel. Maybe it’s because of Murakami’s long-time translator, Jay Rubin. But perhaps it’s explained by this observation by Murakami: No one ever taught me how to write, and I’ve never made a study of writing techniques. So how did I learn to write? From listening to music. And what’s the most important thing in writing? It’s rhythm. No one’s going to read what you write unless it’s got rhythm.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Shawn

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: If I could only read the work of one author for the rest of my life, I'd choose Haruki Murakami. In this new non-fiction work, Murakami sits down with Seiji Ozawa, legendary conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Music has long been a pivotal component of Murakami's novels, which is no surprise, as he ran a jazz club before becoming an internationally bestselling author. Absolutely on Music is like sitting in on an intimate conversation I've said it before and I'll say it again: If I could only read the work of one author for the rest of my life, I'd choose Haruki Murakami. In this new non-fiction work, Murakami sits down with Seiji Ozawa, legendary conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Music has long been a pivotal component of Murakami's novels, which is no surprise, as he ran a jazz club before becoming an internationally bestselling author. Absolutely on Music is like sitting in on an intimate conversation between friends, and it is a privilege to be able to eavesdrop on these two legends.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    Since I read all things Murakami, I had to read this. It turned out to be wonderful. I guess the more you know about music, the better it would be. I know a little and learned a lot more. But it's also about what it means to be an artist. It's a lot about the process of creating art. Seiji Ozawa comes across as being gentle, warm, and generous, with his time his energy and his talent. He teaches as well as conducts, although he has been slowed up in recent years by illness. Murakami, Since I read all things Murakami, I had to read this. It turned out to be wonderful. I guess the more you know about music, the better it would be. I know a little and learned a lot more. But it's also about what it means to be an artist. It's a lot about the process of creating art. Seiji Ozawa comes across as being gentle, warm, and generous, with his time his energy and his talent. He teaches as well as conducts, although he has been slowed up in recent years by illness. Murakami, despite his disclaimers, seems to know a lot about music. He is a well- (if self-) educated amateur who knows how to listen carefully and critically but with great appreciation and love for music. He understands the soul of it. His questions elicited fascinating responses from Ozawa and his own comments were enlightening as well. The dialogue between the two men was intelligent but also warm, with touches of humor and a great common love for music. I loved this book. I think it is a valuable book for anyone who cares about music or, more generally, the process of creating art.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Secor

    When I was about four years old, I received a gift of a mechanical bear cub that climbed a pole. I looked at the illustration on the box and was disappointed when I opened it that the toy itself didn't look as perfect as the illustration. I imagine that four years of age is a bit young to start being jaded, but I think I learned then that it doesn't always pay to have expectations that are too high. One's expectations might be fulfilled, but not necessarily. In the case of this book, the reality When I was about four years old, I received a gift of a mechanical bear cub that climbed a pole. I looked at the illustration on the box and was disappointed when I opened it that the toy itself didn't look as perfect as the illustration. I imagine that four years of age is a bit young to start being jaded, but I think I learned then that it doesn't always pay to have expectations that are too high. One's expectations might be fulfilled, but not necessarily. In the case of this book, the reality fell short of what I had hoped for. I expected the book to be conversations on music, but most of it is conversations (primarily jumpstarted by Murakami) on conducting. I suppose I should have expected that, since Ozawa ia a conductor, but I'd hoped that there would be more discussion on music in general. That was somewhat disappointing for me, but, as I say, I should have expected it. I did learn a bit about a conductor's role and about certain compositions, so I'm grateful for that. I had some differences of opinion with certain things that were said, and that's a good thing. If I agreed with everything I read in a non-fiction book, there would be no point in reading. However, there was a point offered that was factually incorrect. There is discussion of Leonard Bernstein reviving Gustav Mahler's music for concert audiences. Murakami makes the statement: "Afterward (after WW II) it fell to America, and not Europe, to become the powerhouse for the current Mahler revival." I don't know about "powerhouse" (Bernstein certainly had a heavy duty publicity machine behind him), but Jascha Horenstein conducted Mahler in Europe in the 1950's, and the 1959 performance he conducted of Mahler's 8th Symphony at Royal Albert Hall is considered by many to be the beginning of the Mahler revival. I would have thought that either a renowned conductor like Ozawa or a fanatical record collector like Murakami would have had some knowledge of that fact. A minor nitpick about the book that annoyed me a bit is that Ozawa continually refers to Bernstein as "Lenny", while he refers to Herbert von Karajan as "Maestro Karajan" or "the Maestro". Perhaps Bernstein had a less formal relationship with his assistants, and didn't mind being called Lenny, while Karajan wanted to be called Maestro. I don't know. But Karajan had been dead for over twenty years when the conversations for this book were recorded, so (at least to my mind) there was no need to continue referring to him as "Maestro Karajan". It may be that Ozawa didn't respect Bernstein (although he gave Ozawa his first appointment as assistant conductor and Ozawa made his first concert appearance with the NY Philharmonic when he was Bernstein's assistant) and did respect Karajan. Again, I don't know. It just seemed strange to me. I did learn things from reading this book, but it was just a case of overly high expectations that weren't met.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Philippe

    In 2010 star conductor Seiji Ozawa, then in his mid-70s, had to settle down for a while to convalesce from a series of serious health problems. Haruki Murakami, his celebrated countryman and a genuine classical music buff, filled in the gap with a series of long conversations on all things musical. Murakami is an avid record collector but doesn't know how to read music. So he is essentially a dilettante who had the privilege to quiz a supremely experienced professional musician. The results are In 2010 star conductor Seiji Ozawa, then in his mid-70s, had to settle down for a while to convalesce from a series of serious health problems. Haruki Murakami, his celebrated countryman and a genuine classical music buff, filled in the gap with a series of long conversations on all things musical. Murakami is an avid record collector but doesn't know how to read music. So he is essentially a dilettante who had the privilege to quiz a supremely experienced professional musician. The results are not always equally satisfying. In their first conversation, Murakami puts Ozawa in a chair and subjects him to a review of different performances of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto (including one of his own recordings). Ozawa doesn't seem to be really interested, and the exchange is rather wooden. He even admits not liking "those manic record collectors - people with lots of money, superb music reproduction equipment, and tons of records (...) You go in, and they've got everything ever recorded by Furtwängler, say, but the people themselves are so busy they can't spend any time at home listening to music." It's a curiously judgmental statement, particularly by a Japanese, which I take to be an expression of Ozawa's annoyance with Murakami's opening conversational gambit. Slowly Murakami gets on track. The second conversation zooms in on Ozawa's relationship with the Saito Kinen orchestra he helped to establish. This is a group of elite players that comes together for a month each year to study and perform carefully selected, string-oriented repertoire under Ozawa's guidance. The sixth and final exchange is set against the background of another one of the conductor's pet projects, the summertime Ozawa Acedemy for young string players on the shores of Lake Geneva. In between they talk about Ozawa's experiences in the 1960s as assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein, his love for opera (Ozawa led the Wiener Staatsoper for eight years) and his relationship to the music of Mahler. Overall I have mixed feelings about the book. Ozawa is a superbly intuitive artist but not a great thinker about music. At one point he admits: "You know, talking about these things with you like this, it's gradually begun to dawn on me that I'm not the kind of person who thinks about things in this way. When I study a piece of music, I concentrate fairly deeply on the score. And the more I concentrate, probably, the less I think about other things. I just think about the music itself. I guess I could say that I depend entirely on what comes between me and the music." Later on in the book, this is reinforced when he says: "Yes, in both my conducting and my teaching. I don't approach either with preconceived ideas. (...) I don't have anything to say until I've got a musician right in front of me." So Ozawa is at his best when he reminisces about his contacts with fellow conductors (Karajan amongst them), soloists and opera singers. But he is uncommunicative when the conversation veers away from the personal and experiential. I sympathised with Murakami in the sense that, as a classical music aficionado, I'm coming from a very similar place. Like him, I've built up a vast record collection and amassed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the field. But also I am not able to play an instrument or read music. So there is this curious and frustrating feeling of being shut out of this world we love so much. On the whole, Murakami does a commendable job as an amateur music lover and interviewer. Nevertheless, I found myself frustrated in many cases by his coquettish but unnecessary display of expertise or his failure to follow up on interesting leads. For instance, one motto theme throughout the book is Ozawa's deep love for the orchestra's string section. He picked this up from his early mentor Professor Saito who promoted an idea of 'talkative strings'. However, the deeper grounds for this fascination with strings remain in the dark. Murakami never digs deeper into the issue. I wonder who the target audience is for this book. Readers who are not familiar with classical music will be put off by the endless parade of composers' and performers' names. I personally, as an experienced listener, didn't pick up a lot of new things from this book. Certainly, Ozawa shares some amusing anecdotes. And one gets a (still very fragmented) perspective on his long career. Also scattered through the book are the elements of a blurry, somewhat coherent picture of how Ozawa understands his craft as a conductor. But again, Murakami does not pull together these strands in the narrative. Probably the most interesting experience related to this book is that it prompted me to reflect on what questions I would like to ask when faced with the opportunity to sit down with a person like Seiji Ozawa. It's not an easy question to answer. My former interactions with scholars, musicians and composers have led to mutual bewilderment as we seem to be interested in very different things. The Georgian composer Giya Kancheli once laughed out loud and reproached me for taking music too seriously. "Don't think about it," he said, "You just have to let it wash over you."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne Thornton

    i feel like this is probably really really good if you know a lot more about classical music than I do. As it was, I was just fascinated by the eerie dynamic btw Murakami and Ozawa: Murakami: I will now ask you to listen to this recording you made forty years ago Ozawa: ha ha okay Murakami: Let's stop the tape at 3:39, I'm intrigued by the timpani hiss here, why did you do that Ozawa: huh! never noticed that before, don't remember Murakami: I see Murakami: I w i feel like this is probably really really good if you know a lot more about classical music than I do. As it was, I was just fascinated by the eerie dynamic btw Murakami and Ozawa: Murakami: I will now ask you to listen to this recording you made forty years ago Ozawa: ha ha okay Murakami: Let's stop the tape at 3:39, I'm intrigued by the timpani hiss here, why did you do that Ozawa: huh! never noticed that before, don't remember Murakami: I see Murakami: I will now ask you to listen to this recording of the same piece you made thirty-five years ago Ozawa has a note in the afterword saying "Murakami sure loves music! He loves it to a frightening degree!" I could kinda go with him about running in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running but that book wasn't a conversation with, idk, someone who is very good at running, and did not assume quite as much background knowledge The best part is the part where Ozawa is teaching the students to become True Musicians, but it happens right at the end and takes some slogging to get to I talked about this book with someone in a bar while waiting for a friend to show up for a business meeting; he was a composer who worked for the post office and said this book was very good if you were a composer, so add another star maybe if you are one (dynamic scoring)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Phee

    I'm not the target audience for this book. I'm not someone that listens to classical music. I don't listen to much music at all really. I read this simply because I am a completionist. Especially when it comes to Murakami. That being said there are some fantastic phrases here. And some interesting thoughts on more than music. So well worth a read if you enjoy this topic or if it sounds interesting to you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    This book is not for everybody, and yet it is a valuable contribution to nonfiction. If you have any interest in classical music, music history and more, then this is a book for you. It hardly matters if you already know the pieces of music discussed in many parts of this book, because there is a website where you can listen to them to hear what is being discussed. But this is more than a discussion of music, it also brings up history. After all, Ozawa was an assistant conductor to Leonard Berns This book is not for everybody, and yet it is a valuable contribution to nonfiction. If you have any interest in classical music, music history and more, then this is a book for you. It hardly matters if you already know the pieces of music discussed in many parts of this book, because there is a website where you can listen to them to hear what is being discussed. But this is more than a discussion of music, it also brings up history. After all, Ozawa was an assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein for 3 years and worked with others in music history. We also gain insights into Ozawa and his life, albeit not all in a neat, package of chronological tidiness. If you are a fan of Murakami's novels (I can't say I am--I tried one and didn't care for it and haven't tried another), this is not the same sort of writing. Much of it is interviews with Ozawa, which have been transcribed. There are little interludes with lovely morsels of information, and there is an afterword by Ozawa.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    The genius that is Seiji Ozawa and Harukuki Murakami is revealed in this series of intimate conversations. Plus, we get a crash course in music and conducting. Engrossing!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Originally posted on my blog: https://bongbongbooks.wordpress.com "Haruki Murakami....doesn't just love music, he knows it." - Seiji Ozawa, Absolutely on Music To be honest, the primary reason why I wanted to read to this book is because it's co-written by Murakami. I am a sucker of anything Murakami so after knowing that he has a new book coming out, I took the chance and requested an advance reader's copy from the publisher. Upon learning that my request was approved, I got excited for two things; first, Originally posted on my blog: https://bongbongbooks.wordpress.com "Haruki Murakami....doesn't just love music, he knows it." - Seiji Ozawa, Absolutely on Music To be honest, the primary reason why I wanted to read to this book is because it's co-written by Murakami. I am a sucker of anything Murakami so after knowing that he has a new book coming out, I took the chance and requested an advance reader's copy from the publisher. Upon learning that my request was approved, I got excited for two things; first, this will be my first nonfiction book that I'll read from Murakami and second, I will be one of the first few people who will be able to read his newest work. I still can remember how I felt when the book finally arrived at my doorsteps, I was all over the moon. I was at that time very excited to read this book without even thinking what the scope of the book will be. Yeah, I read the synopsis and all that and I know that the book is basically a transcript of conversations between Murakami and Ozawa who are considered as masters in their own fields but that's just basically it. I read quite a few nonfiction books in my life but never did I have once read a book about music. I also don't know how Murakami writes nonfiction or how he structures it so when I started it I was a little thrown off my seat. I did expect that, for sure, it will be different from all the other Murakami books that I read and I always have to think about that while reading this book. I did expect that considering that the two are virtuoso in their own fields, being intimidated will just be normal. I expected that since it will be about music, a subject that I despise since my elementary days, I should keep an open mind. (Don't get me wrong here, I like listening to music, what I am not a fan of are its technicalities which for me is overwhelming.) What I did not expect was how the book will totally immerse me in a world that I have little to no knowledge about. It brought me to a literary adventure far different from what I've experienced from previous books not just by Murakami but also by other authors. It's unconventional but it's magical. "...because music itself is a thing of such breadth and generosity." - Haruki Murakami, Absolutely on Music If you're an avid reader of Murakami's works, you are probably aware on how he incorporate music in his books. I have always been puzzled about his knowledge in music because of the way he infuses it in his books. A couple of the titles of his books like Norwegian Wood, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and South of the Border, West of the Sun were derived from song titles with Norwegian Wood from The Beatles, Years of Pilgrimage of Franz Liszt and South of the Border by Nat King Cole. And also the numerous mentions of song titles in his books that ranges from classical, jazz to pop that, based on the books that I read, I can remember having Rolling Stones, Schubert, Prince and Haydn mentioned. There are actually a lot of Murakami playlists available in the web if you like to indulge in Murakami's musical references. There were a lot of times, wile reading this book, I felt like, Murakami is in his comfort zone. He really knows what he's talking about and it seems like he put a part of his soul in this one. It's funny though that he always consider himself in the book as an amateur but the depth of his knowledge about music is really not what I can consider as an amateur. In this book, his fans will have a glimpse of how music runs deep in his veins. He has this huge collection of rare vinyls that he got in his travels which even Ozawa is amaze about. He's also this passionate lover of classical orchestras and operas, having attended a lot in different parts of the world and each share their experiences. I don't know who Seiji Ozawa is before reading this book. This book introduced me to him and his contribution to the world of music. With his experiences, posts that he served, organizations and awards he received, without a doubt he's a legend. Now 81, he's best known for being the lead conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 30 years. Recuperating from an operation for esophageal cancer in 2010 created time for him to sit down with Murakami in different locations and time between 2010 and 2011 allowing this book to come into fruition. "The two things needed for "good music" to come into being were, first of all, a spark, and secondly, magic. If either was missing, "good music" wouldn't happen." - Haruki Murakami, Absolutely on Music Each discussion in this book starts with Murakami playing a piece with the two talking what they think about it, the interpretations that they heard from different venues interpreted by different conductors then comparing each. Take this as an example: "In the simplest terms, the first Boston performance has a very fresh feel to it overall. It's a young man's music tht goes straight for the heart. The second Boston performance is terrific, with an added density that only the Boston Symphony could produce. But the newest one, with the Saito Kinen Orchestra, feels absolutely transparent to me - as though you can see every little detail. All the inner voices come clearly to the surface. I really enjoyed comparing the recordings and hearing these references." The conversation will then move to a more personal level as they talk about their experiences as each try to develop their crafts and their struggles and challenges along the way. They started sharing their work habits which I find insightful. Murakami connects the similarities with music and writing to eventually talking about what music meant to them. There's that feeling of being excited in every page that you turn because you're getting this new personal facts about the author that you adore. I like how immersing their discussions went. Murakami has this conviction in his words showing that he really knows what he's talking about. He controls the flow of the discussion and he knows the questions to ask. I like how Murakami glued my attention to the book by the way he asks the questions and he always follows it up with his observations with Ozawa sharing his own thoughts about it too. They talked about a lot different personalities from musicians, conductors, composers, orchestras, soloists to icons like Beethoven, Brahm, Haydn, Mahler Bernstein, Gould, Armstrong, Stravinsky, Bartok and Shostakovich among others. The diversity and range of topics discussed are really impressive. The topics range from the development and differences of orchestras and operas then and now in a couple of parts of the world (like Tokyo, Berlin, Vienna and San Francisco among others) to the shift to digital recording. There are really parts that are really intimidating, specially those parts where the two talks about technicalities when they compare works like for instance the dynamics and beat of each piece. They talk about details in depth in some parts and for someone who doesn't have any idea as to what they're talking about like me, it can be a little bit dragging. This line in the book by Seiji Ozawa best describe how intricate it is to create a music: "All it takes is one teaspoon too much or too little, and you can change the whole flavor of the music." The book also has this tendency to also repeat numerous references and I was lost in some parts. It's good that there's humor thrown here and there to balance the prose. "I believe that music exists to make people happy." - Haruki Murakami, Absolutely on Music But nonetheless, this book is full of optimism and I like how relax the book's flow went which can be attributed to Jay Rubin in a way. I like how despite being a nonfiction, this book carried some style of Murakami's fiction books. It may sound weird but this book has that light and absorbing style that I always enjoy when I read a book by Murakami. He mentioned in this book that a good writing follows a rhythm and that I believe is what he always do in his books. With this book, I saw the connection of his love of music to him being a writer. This book encouraged me to search the musical pieces mentioned in the book and listen to each. This book encouraged me to appreciate classical music or even just to give it a try. As how Seiji Oza puts it, "....the important thing is not so much to learn it, as to immerse yourself in it. The challenging thing is whether or not you can get inside a work once you've learned it." Aside from talking about the power and nature of music, this book also offered a background as to how the Murakami and Ozawa met and how the two developed their friendship and their shared passion for music. The two are bonded by their love for music and this book is a testament to that. This book served as like my resource book about orchestras and operas. Murakami and Ozawa became like my navigators in a world that is foreign to me. Though I am not a person who listens to classical music or have an idea about musical theories and technicalities, I still did find this book enjoyable. Murakami continues to amaze me with what he can write and what he can offer. I have yet to read a book from him that I won't enjoy. This book will be officially released on November 15 so be sure to check it out. 4 stars out of 5. PS. I'll definitely be on the lookout for this book's audio book. I hope it would be accompanied by music as both discuss each musical piece. Note: My gratitude to Harvill Secker/Vintage Books for providing me a review copy in exchange for a honest and unbiased review. In no way was my opinion about the book influenced.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    4 Stars - Excellent book The musical conversations in this book are truly unique and like nothing I’ve ever read before. Murakami presents these conversations in an engaging and almost lyrical way. Haruki Murakami, world-renowned author, sits down with Seiji Ozawa, world-renowned conductor, for conversations on music (hence the title). They sit down for 6 conversations and Murakami observes Ozawa in action as he conducts his academy for youth musicians in Switzerland. Topics range from mus 4 Stars - Excellent book The musical conversations in this book are truly unique and like nothing I’ve ever read before. Murakami presents these conversations in an engaging and almost lyrical way. Haruki Murakami, world-renowned author, sits down with Seiji Ozawa, world-renowned conductor, for conversations on music (hence the title). They sit down for 6 conversations and Murakami observes Ozawa in action as he conducts his academy for youth musicians in Switzerland. Topics range from musical compositions, Ozawa’s beginnings and relationship with the Leonard Bernstein, blues and jazz, and all things classical music (particularly German compositions). Before reading I knew who Murakami was and have read some of his works. He’s a fantastic writer. I did not know Ozawa. I love classical music but I would never dare consider myself an expert nor even a dilettante. I listen without paying real attention to the composers and the orchestras that produced said recordings. However, this book will change the way I listen to classical music, and music more generally I think. One of my favorite things about this book is the insight into Leonard Bernstein, or Lenny as Ozawa affectionately calls him. He wasn’t a good disciplinarian but he was a brilliant conductor (and composer). It seems as if Ozawa learned a lot from him, but did the opposite. Bernstein’s style, most of the time, didn’t fit Ozawa but it is quite clear that the student learned from the master. Murakami’s superb musical knowledge is highly impressive. He like’s music, that’s clear; his book Norwegian Wood is named after a Beatles song. Music seems to have deeply impacted this writer and the way he writes about it is beautiful. Take for example the following: ”They give the impression of a very deep and meticulous reading of the score, as though he’s become convinced that the more deeply you burrow into the score itself, the more naturally Mahler is going to emerge.” -p. 158 Or: ”The clarinet adds an indefinably mysterious touch to the melody, the strange tones of a bird crying out a prophecy deep in the forest.” -p. 173 This book is meticulously researched and written. The conversations are structured yet lively and interspersed with fascinating tangents. Murakami put a lot of effort into this little book and it shows. Do I recommend this? Yes! If you’re a fan of music (classical or not), Ozawa, Mukarami, or wan to try something new you’ll get something out of it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    Conductor Seiji Ozawa is far too modest a man to write an autobiography, or to have one written about him. During the time in the early 2010’s, when Ozawa was recuperating from esophageal cancer and its many complications, the conductor sat down on many occasions with novelist Haruki Murakami to discuss his musical life, his views on music and on certain composers, as well as teaching. The result is this delightful and marvelous book of musical talk: Absolutely on Music – Conversations with Seij Conductor Seiji Ozawa is far too modest a man to write an autobiography, or to have one written about him. During the time in the early 2010’s, when Ozawa was recuperating from esophageal cancer and its many complications, the conductor sat down on many occasions with novelist Haruki Murakami to discuss his musical life, his views on music and on certain composers, as well as teaching. The result is this delightful and marvelous book of musical talk: Absolutely on Music – Conversations with Seiji Ozawa (Bond Street Books, 2016), a sort of Tuesdays with Morrie on music. This is probably as close as we will ever get to having a glimpse into the life of the great conductor. The book is divided into six conversations/chapters, with shorter “interludes” in between. Ozawa and Murakami began their conversations with a discussion on Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, which Ozawa was, at the time, preparing to conduct. As a tangent, Ozawa shared his experience of being in the audience when Glenn Gould and Leonard Bernstein gave that infamous performance of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor. Ozawa felt that Bernstein’s disclaimer before the performance was inappropriate. He and Murakami then discussed and compared Gould’s performance of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with Herbert von Karajan (a live recording) as well as Leonard Bernstein (a studio recording), thereby highlighting the difference between the two master conductors, both of whom were mentors to Ozawa. They also compared recordings of pianist Rudolf Serkin’s two recordings of the same concerto, one with Bernstein, and the other one with Ozawa himself and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I find it interesting to contrast Murakami’s questions/comments about certain musical subjects, in the language of a knowledgeable music lover, and Ozawa’s answers/comments in much more the language of a musician. In Murakami’s own words, “(T)here is a fundamental difference that separates the way we understand music...it’s hardly for me to point out how very high the wall is that separates the pro from the amateur, the music maker and the listener.” That said, Ozawa never condescends, never gives pat answers, when answering Murakami’s questions, and his responses are always respectful to the writer as well as thoughtful. In a subsequent chapter, Ozawa shared his memories of his experiences as assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, some of his early recordings and performances, and his appointment as music director of the Chicago Symphony’s Ravinia Festival, as well as his time as music director of the Toronto Symphony. Fascinating also is an entire chapter on Ozawa’s views on the music of Gustav Mahler, whose nine symphonies Ozawa performed and recorded extensively. Again, Ozawa related his experiences with Bernstein when he was in the process of performing and recording the Mahler symphonies. Ozawa also shared with Murakami his experiences as an opera conductor. Although he did not grow up, like many of the older conductors, in the tradition of an opera house, he certainly grew into opera with a steep learning curve, so much so that he was appointed music director of the Vienna State Opera. It is therefore not surprising that one chapter is devoted to Ozawa’s activities as in opera. In spite of the fact that Ozawa is one of the most famous names in the music world, he has never revealed very much about his life or about his past musical experiences. These different chapters really give us a tiny glimpse into the great conductor’s musical life, his many accomplishments, and his thoughts into varying aspects of music. It is fascinating to read Ozawa’s recollections of the many great musicians whose path he crossed. He was forever lamenting - and I’m sure he meant it - about all the missed opportunities he might have had in learning from and talking to older musicians – Glenn Gould and Bruno Walter were the two figures he specifically named - because of his poor English. Unlike many musical memoirs, this book does not degenerate into becoming a series of self-aggrandizing anecdotes. The self-effacing Ozawa seemed to always divert the conversation towards other musicians, or about the composer and the works he conducted. A friend who read this book in the original Japanese told me that it is impossible to capture the tone and the flavour of the conversation with any translation. Even so, Ozawa is one of my musical heroes, and reading this book has been the highlight of the Christmas season. Since falling ill in 2009, Seiji Ozawa’s convalescence has been a long and difficult process. Even today, the conductor only makes two or three appearances a year, and often share a concert with another conductor because of his limited strength. Which is all the more reason we should be thankful for this inspiring book. Music lovers, students of music, as well as musicians would all enjoy and learn from the many reflections and insights by this master musician, and one of the 20th century’s great conductors, now in the twilight of his life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    SeanT_C2

    While reading this book, I felt as though I’d found the opening to that "secret room" as described in this book by the world renowned master of conducting Seiji Ozawa. Through the words and interactions between the reporter, a long-term classical-music aficionado with no formal education in music, and Ozawa himself who was the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 29 years, I saw vividly, conversations between me and my father. My father was a veteran in the art of composition, whi While reading this book, I felt as though I’d found the opening to that "secret room" as described in this book by the world renowned master of conducting Seiji Ozawa. Through the words and interactions between the reporter, a long-term classical-music aficionado with no formal education in music, and Ozawa himself who was the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 29 years, I saw vividly, conversations between me and my father. My father was a veteran in the art of composition, while I immersed myself into the journey of a conductor as well as a concert pianist. "Why did you choose composition?" I would always ask him. His reply was always different, but one that stuck with me forever was "Why do you think you chose conducting and piano?" I adored the stage, and all it's beauty of the exposé of one's hard work, and I could not understand where father drew joy out of sitting in a room for 10 hours a day writing. But at the same time, he could not understand the reasons I would sit at the piano drilling my way through practices and etudes hours at a time, ripping open my layers of callouses. As a result, this created a flow of thoughts as well as a kind of perceptive translation at work between us. One of this book’s central pleasures is that to me, it was an encouragement to level with someone who stood on top of me in the industry. It helped me better understand that everything we do as performers, composers, musicologists, is for serving the people around us, bringing them to the understanding of our art, and above all, to use and music as the great we force that binds all of us together. In two different recordings of Ozawa's Mahler's first symphony, the reporter says one is “like making a leisurely tour in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes-Benz”, and that the second is “like zipping around in a sports car with a nice stick shift". One can conjure such descriptions that can provoke Ozawa’s inner dissent, even irritation towards his otherworldly and unprofessional approach to music. It’s a testament to how well the reporter has listened to the music that he loves and that his avowals prompt the conductor to respond with a start to discussion instead with infuriation. I've lost track of how many times the novelist’s ideas led to Ozawa replying, “Hmm, you’re right”, or “That’s absolutely true” and “I’m enjoying talking to you about music like this because your perspective is so different from mine, and it’s that difference [between us] that has been making it a learning experience for me, something fresh and unexpected.” As a music lover and musician myself, I remained captivated by Mr. Ozawa's each and every word, but yet, even dedicated fans and admirers of Murukami's works could lose interest while reading about tempo changes in the Toronto, Boston and Saito Kinen orchestras’ performances of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Once again, it's the things we all understand as a whole that brings us together, not the things that we as individuals invest our lives in specifically.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I find conversations a delight to read. This one is largely about the art of conducting and musical performance, with insights into why performances vary, and plenty of dishy gossip about major conductors of the 20th-century. While many technical details were beyond me (I am not a musician) the book did open a small window into the mind of a conductor and the mysterious communication between conductor and orchestra. Some fascinating parallels can be seen between conducting and novel-writing, and I find conversations a delight to read. This one is largely about the art of conducting and musical performance, with insights into why performances vary, and plenty of dishy gossip about major conductors of the 20th-century. While many technical details were beyond me (I am not a musician) the book did open a small window into the mind of a conductor and the mysterious communication between conductor and orchestra. Some fascinating parallels can be seen between conducting and novel-writing, and between listening to difficult music and reading difficult fiction. E.g., Ozawa:[...] Mahler's music looks hard at first sight, and it really is hard, but if you read it closely and deeply, with feeling, it's not such confusing and inscrutable music after all. It's got all these layers piled one on top of another, and lots of different elements emerging at the same time, so in effect it [only]sounds complicated. Murakami instigated the conversations, which took place over several sessions while Ozawa was recovering from cancer treatments, and Murakami comes across as a considerate interlocutor and easygoing enthusiast (he calls himself a dilettante but he is extremely knowledgeable). Finally, this inspired me to revisit some favorite symphonies (like Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique) and to perhaps finally read Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Paula Cappa

    Readers who have a ‘hungry heart’ and feel compelled to ‘dig deeper, forging farther ahead,’ as Murakami explains in his introduction, will find themselves quite satisfied. Absolutely On Music is staged as an interview with Seiji Ozawa but it’s really just two guys, drinking tea, listening to music, and exchanging their thoughts in an easy chat. The book will be a treasure for any student or lover of music, and of course the accomplished musician. Because I’m a writer of fiction, I found the cha Readers who have a ‘hungry heart’ and feel compelled to ‘dig deeper, forging farther ahead,’ as Murakami explains in his introduction, will find themselves quite satisfied. Absolutely On Music is staged as an interview with Seiji Ozawa but it’s really just two guys, drinking tea, listening to music, and exchanging their thoughts in an easy chat. The book will be a treasure for any student or lover of music, and of course the accomplished musician. Because I’m a writer of fiction, I found the chapter Interlude 2 The Relationship of Writing to Music to be inspiring. While author and fiction writer Murakami tells us he ‘learned to write from listening to music,’ he cites Rhythm as the most important thing in writing. ‘That inner rhythmic feel that propels the reader forward’—the writer’s vocabulary, the narrative momentum, balance of soft, light, heavy, and tone. Musicians, like authors, find their highest ‘flavor as they age.’ I found a lot to agree with here. I read this book in small bites over the past few months and found it to be a welcomed dessert at the end of the day. Witty and warm, this book is a keeper on any artist’s bookshelf. I received this book as a gift from a friend and it’s much appreciated.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Widyanto Gunadi

    Absolutely On Music is a fascinating and insightful life narrative of a great perennial Japanese former classical music director, conductor, and arranger of the famed Boston Symphony Orchestra from America, Seiji Ozawa, whose performances have successfully made the audiences anywhere in the world to experience a heavenly blissful, auditory solace. The book comprised of a number of interviews conducted by our very own enigmatic contemporary Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, on several special o Absolutely On Music is a fascinating and insightful life narrative of a great perennial Japanese former classical music director, conductor, and arranger of the famed Boston Symphony Orchestra from America, Seiji Ozawa, whose performances have successfully made the audiences anywhere in the world to experience a heavenly blissful, auditory solace. The book comprised of a number of interviews conducted by our very own enigmatic contemporary Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami, on several special occasions. Ozawa-san, who claimed to be a close friend of the author himself, has undertaken a very generously rich and inspiring journey to be where he is at right now, acknowledged by music lovers as a gilt-edged musical integer. Aside from talking about music (obviously) as its main catalogue raisonné, the book also broached over other closely-knit creative discussions. Murakami-san possessed the keen ability to turned up a mundane topic such as the daily activities in the life of a prolific, gifted virtuoso, into something that is worth reading. He has raised, ever and anon, compelling questions which deemed Ozawa-san to answer them, figuratively speaking, by drawing a comparison between his own professional occupation in music making to Haruki's distinctive knack for storytelling. You cannot help but felt that the two men shared a lot in common, in regards of their enduring passion and dedication to their respective fecund metiers, and that they are always willing to do whatever it takes to improve their mastery of the crafts to the next level. Inclusively, unless you are an avid fan of classical music or a bred-in-the-bone connoisseur of Haruki Murakami's works in general, you should try to read his other books firsthand, before decidedly try to take on this one, at best.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    "Music ... is an art that occurs through time." This is only one of the observations by Seiji Ozawa during conversations with Haruki Murakami transcribed herein. And it is one that resonates. There is much technical material, but Murakami, who downplays his knowledge of music, mostly serves as interlocutor, providing Ozawa the greater amount of input. It is unlike any book on music I've read, providing an insight into the life and mind of one of the most influential maestros in the world. I was "Music ... is an art that occurs through time." This is only one of the observations by Seiji Ozawa during conversations with Haruki Murakami transcribed herein. And it is one that resonates. There is much technical material, but Murakami, who downplays his knowledge of music, mostly serves as interlocutor, providing Ozawa the greater amount of input. It is unlike any book on music I've read, providing an insight into the life and mind of one of the most influential maestros in the world. I was thrilled to read of his affection for the third movement of Sibelius's Fifth Symphony, an absolute favorite of mine. Reading beside my computer with access to iTunes, I was able to listen to the pieces as they were discussed, often listening to the very recordings these two were referencing. It was a joy and privilege, almost as if I were a fly on the wall of the room containing Murakami's astoundingly complete record collection.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Geigle

    This is a gem. Two masters in conversation. Murakami draws out insights from Ozawa, ranging from the drama behind otherwise invisible moments in classical scores to sharing a box with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton when Ozawa was an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. And Murakami’s mastery of the classical music canon makes me want to go back to my teenage years and substitute a little Brahms for Beach Boys. This caution though: if you are not a committed fan of either of these guy This is a gem. Two masters in conversation. Murakami draws out insights from Ozawa, ranging from the drama behind otherwise invisible moments in classical scores to sharing a box with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton when Ozawa was an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. And Murakami’s mastery of the classical music canon makes me want to go back to my teenage years and substitute a little Brahms for Beach Boys. This caution though: if you are not a committed fan of either of these guys, you will go to sleep reading it. But then that would make you an unfortunate soul.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Fellow classical music geeks, this one's for you. I'm glad Murakami was able to have all these conversations with Ozawa and turn them into a book. They talk about pieces, orchestras, performers, composers, focusing in on what interested them to explore in depth.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    I know more than I would ever possibly ever need to know about Concerto No.3 and that's a good thing. I love Murakami on music and in a non-fiction conversation it's just as beautiful as him in love with Janacek in 1Q84.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Santa

    "Silence in not the absence of sound: there is a sound called silence."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mira | I Read Like Phoebe Runs

    It's hard for me to point out how very high the wall is that separates the pro from the amateur, the music maker from the listener. The wall is especially high and thick when that music maker is a world-class professional. But still, that fact doesn't have to hamper our ability to have an honest, direct conversation. At least that's how I feel about it, because music itself is a thing of such breadth and generosity. Our most important task is to search for an effective passageway through the wal It's hard for me to point out how very high the wall is that separates the pro from the amateur, the music maker from the listener. The wall is especially high and thick when that music maker is a world-class professional. But still, that fact doesn't have to hamper our ability to have an honest, direct conversation. At least that's how I feel about it, because music itself is a thing of such breadth and generosity. Our most important task is to search for an effective passageway through the wall - and two people who share a natural affinity for an art, any art, will be sure to find that passageway. I have a soft spot in my heart for both magical realism novels and classical music, so a book that consists of a series of conversations between author and music lover Haruki Murakami and conductor Seija Ozawa... It sounded totally like my kind of thing! It also gave me more than I was expecting, and actually added itself to my reread-pile as well, because one day I will have the time to go through this slowly, observing the music they're discussing while reading this. I didn't have that kind of time now, but luckily I enjoyed simply reading this book, listening to about 20% of the recordings mentioned in their discussions.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joanie

    Oh, this was such a delight. Despite having taken lessons for over a decade of my life (piano, classically trained, the whole RCM shebang), I don't listen to music with 1/1000th of the attention that Haruki Murakami does, so even if this book was just him talking about his love for music, that would've been enough to motivate me to listen more widely and jump back into the world that I've mostly abandoned since revolving around it in my high school days. However, this book isn't just Oh, this was such a delight. Despite having taken lessons for over a decade of my life (piano, classically trained, the whole RCM shebang), I don't listen to music with 1/1000th of the attention that Haruki Murakami does, so even if this book was just him talking about his love for music, that would've been enough to motivate me to listen more widely and jump back into the world that I've mostly abandoned since revolving around it in my high school days. However, this book isn't just Murakami's musings, but a series of warm conversations between friends. The other partner, Seiji Ozawa, is a veteran conductor with a wealth of stories that would leave any fan in awe. His dedication to the music as a whole, to teaching, and his all-consuming love for his art is so beautiful. I have so much to listen to because of this book. Mahler, man. Beyond having to listen to pieces that I had to play or study for exams, I didn't do much listening for leisure, much less know multiple recordings of the same piece by heart to compare and contrast like Murakami did, for so many works. Maybe I'm too blasé but that did impress me. I knew this one would be up my alley and that I would learn a lot from it when I heard about the collaboration, but this book is going on my wishlist for the holidays because I'd love to keep it as a reference to leaf through as I listen to more. It'll be quite an undertaking to go through everything if I include the throwaway mentions, but it'll be worth it. PS: I was both amused and disappointed at how little the Toronto Symphony Orchestra factored in here (hometown bias, sorry!). It's quite sad - not a loss for him, obviously, but for us over here. It read like those few years Ozawa spent with them as music director was a speck of dust compared to everything else. No inspiration, no impact, no memories. I was surprised to even see him being in Toronto when I checked his bio before reading, so at least they had him for a bit before he was off to better things. Even a quick search on wikipedia has nothing in that time beyond noting the years, and it wasn't even a full sentence - a half one with San Francisco taking the second half. It's a blink and you'll miss it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Darya Conmigo

    I am a total ignoramus when it comes to classical music. I enjoy going to a concert occasionally but I don’t know much about the music itself and I have never played any instruments. What I really like though is learning of different professions that have to do with art and creating in some way or another. Oh, and Haruki Murakami and his writing, naturally. So, with these existing preconditions I embarked on the Absolutely on Music journey. And the truth is, I didn’t want i I am a total ignoramus when it comes to classical music. I enjoy going to a concert occasionally but I don’t know much about the music itself and I have never played any instruments. What I really like though is learning of different professions that have to do with art and creating in some way or another. Oh, and Haruki Murakami and his writing, naturally. So, with these existing preconditions I embarked on the Absolutely on Music journey. And the truth is, I didn’t want it to end. I enjoyed spending time with Murakami and Ozawa so much that I stretched the book on purpose and read it in tidbits. A lot of what they discuss makes me think not only of music, but also of how things work similarly in other life spheres. How the conductor’s job is really similar to that of any manager. How different conductors interpret the same works in different ways and there is no one right way - no unlike in theatre, or cinema, or translation. How a good teacher takes a talented student and helps them to discover how their voice fits into the orchestra (or any other group, or profession, or the world). I am sure anyone with a better knowledge of classical music - that would be errrm basically anyone - would get so much more out of this volume. Still, I got a lot of it. And I do intend to listen to the music pieces Murakami and Ozawa discuss :) There is even a helpful link in the end of the book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel Reyes

    Delicious & inviting Music can be a whole reason to live for. Appreciation and understanding can go to the deepest levels only to create more respect and give more pleasure. Amazing Ode to music and musicians!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maria Ploumaki

    I am not a big fun of the classics,so at the beggining of this book i was kinda sad it wasnt about jazz hahaha.I tried to listen the music they were talking about but i couldnt keep up.Untill Mahler.What a revelation!!!!I am sure i am going to read this book again in the future!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Crompton

    This is one of those books that I subjectively enjoyed more than I objectively thought it "deserved." The range of these conversations is narrower than I expected; the focus is on specific recordings, conductors, and performers, rather on on music in general. And by "music" Murakami and Ozawa almost exclusively mean classical music - there are brief mentions of jazz and blues, but those not interested in Western classical music will find this book hard going. But I'm as obsessed by mu This is one of those books that I subjectively enjoyed more than I objectively thought it "deserved." The range of these conversations is narrower than I expected; the focus is on specific recordings, conductors, and performers, rather on on music in general. And by "music" Murakami and Ozawa almost exclusively mean classical music - there are brief mentions of jazz and blues, but those not interested in Western classical music will find this book hard going. But I'm as obsessed by music as these two guys, or nearly so, and their knowledge and enthusiasm was infectious. Murakami is not a musician, and sometimes doesn't have the vocabulary to express what he's trying to say about a particular performance, but it's obvious that he has listened deeply to a lot of music. And of course, these conversation led me to pull records and CDs off the shelf and listen - the litmus test of any book on music.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Uma

    I don’t know anything about classical music at all and half the time I didn’t understand what Ozawa and Murakami were talking about. Despite that, I still loved it so much!! Murakami is just so charming, in both speech and in writing. The side notes to the conversation all capture his unique writing style and really shows how appreciative he is of the little details in life (which I find shows in his novels too).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    Two disclaimers: 1. Before I was a writer, I studied to be a musician, so I'm not able to say how accessible this book is to someone without a formal musical background. 2. Murakami was the writer who led me to become a writer myself, so I'm always a little biased in favor of his books. Those two things being said, I greatly enjoyed Absolutely on Music. Murakami has no formal musical training himself, but the powers of his intellect and his careful attention to m Two disclaimers: 1. Before I was a writer, I studied to be a musician, so I'm not able to say how accessible this book is to someone without a formal musical background. 2. Murakami was the writer who led me to become a writer myself, so I'm always a little biased in favor of his books. Those two things being said, I greatly enjoyed Absolutely on Music. Murakami has no formal musical training himself, but the powers of his intellect and his careful attention to musical detail shine through as he interviews the legendary conductor Seiji Ozawa. 95% of the book consists of straight transcriptions of the conversations the two men had over a course of several interviews, and these are interspersed with a few thoughts from Murakami, and capped with an afterword by Ozawa. Murakami guides the conversations through comparative listenings to several recordings by different orchestras of the same compositions. He taps into the musical mind of Ozawa (and his historical perspective) to understand the methods employed by conductors when preparing an orchestra for performance. It's like getting to sit in as two old and brilliant friends chat about a shared passion. And what makes it work is that these two friends are coming from such different relationships to the subject. The professional and the avid listener. For fans of orchestral music, this book should be required reading. Ozawa's personal connections to many of the major figures of 20th century orchestral works, from Leonard Bernstein (whom Ozawa calls Lenny) to the current conductors of the world's best ensembles. It's fortunate that he found this outlet in Murakami to share the behind-the-scenes side of what has been a monumental public career.

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