A deeply personal, intimate conversation about music and writing between the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In Absolutely on Music, internationally Haruki Murakami sits down with his friend Seiji Ozawa, the revered former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a series of conversations on their shared passion: music. Over the course of two years, Murakami and Ozawa discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from Bartók to Mahler, and from pop-up orchestras to opera. They listen to and dissect recordings of some of their favorite performances, and Murakami questions Ozawa about his career conducting orchestras around the world.
Culminating in Murakami’s ten-day visit to the banks of Lake Geneva to observe Ozawa’s retreat for young musicians, the book is interspersed with ruminations on record collecting, jazz clubs, orchestra halls, film scores, and much more. A deep reflection on the essential nature of both music and writing, Absolutely on Music is an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of two maestros.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
On the surface, this collection of transcribed conversations between writer Haruki Murakami and legendary conductor Seiji Ozawa are beautiful, articulate reflections on classical music. But the hidden joy of Absolutely on Music lies in the easy intimacy between two masters of their form. Playing the role of attentive student, Murakami asks questions that elicit an unguarded self-portrait from the maestro. Classical music fans will relish anecdotes about Ozawa’s apprenticeship with Leonard Bernstein and love for Louis Armstrong, but his simplest statements will speak to anyone who’s dedicated to the craft of creation: “The work itself changes you.”
These chats between novelist Murakami and Ozawa, former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, contain intriguing insights about the nature of music. Over a two-year period (2010 2011), Murakami and Ozawa sat down to listen to and reflect upon matters as diverse as various recordings of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, Brahms's First Symphony, the music of Gustav Mahler, and the joys of conducting with Leonard Bernstein, whom Ozawa worked under in the 1960s. Ozawa reflects on the role of the conductor: "One of the distinguishing features of the conductor's profession: the work itself changes you; the one thing a conductor has to do is to get sounds out of the orchestra; I read the score and create a piece of music in my mind, after which I work with the orchestra members to turn that into actual sounds, and that process gives rise to all kinds of things." In response to Murakami's question about the emotions a Japanese conductor feels when conducting the music of Gustav Mahler, an Austrian Jew, Ozawa reflects that when an Easterner performs music written by a Westerner, it can have its own special meaning. Ozawa admits that he doesn't approach conducting with preconceived ideas about how a score should sound or be played: "I don't have anything to say until I've got a musician right in front of me." The tone of the book is deliberate and contemplative. In some ways, these conversations are High Fidelity for classical music fans.