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Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,118 ratings  ·  406 reviews
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
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 1st 2016 by Harvill Secker (first published 2011)
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Massimo Laneve Good day, I've got English translation - by Jay Rubin - of this book and there are the nice two birds on the paper cover. Actually they are three, one…moreGood day, I've got English translation - by Jay Rubin - of this book and there are the nice two birds on the paper cover. Actually they are three, one of the two on the front cover is also replicated on the back suggesting this somehow represents Murakami, the blue one representing Ozawa. This interpretation is also confirmed by their placement on the paper explicitly referring to authors' names in the front cover, position that shows clearly the conversational nature of the book focused absolutely on music.
I'm not an ornithologist nor a specialist so cannot say which birds they are.
I only know those illustration are taken from some of John James Audubon's work that was a great ornithologist and painter - more references here

If you get some details on the two birds, please share, it's kind on intriguing for me as well.(less)

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Sean Barrs
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 ren
Jun 15, 2017 added it
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 ...more
Christopher Shawn
Aug 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 frie
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
Jan 07, 2017 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jeanne Thornton
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
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 recordin
Paul Secor
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
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 ...more
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.
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 ...more
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
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!
Originally posted on my blog:

"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
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 co
Widyanto Gunadi
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-reads
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 ...more
Paula Cappa
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Classical Music Fans
I have been enjoying books by Haruki Murakami of late and this one is a great trip into musical experiences and appreciation on the part of the author as well as the famed conductor Seiji Ozawa. Since Ozawa had been sidelined with esophageal cancer, it seemed a convenient opportunity to meet and record discussions with the intent of publishing a book. His daughter was friendly with the Murakami family and served as the connection for these two to meet.
The six sessions were a treasure trove of ea
Darya Conmigo
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 spen
Kasa Cotugno
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 ...more
Ronald Geigle
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
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.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
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.
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Silence in not the absence of sound: there is a sound called silence."
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 ...more
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 m
Maria Ploumaki
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
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!
Gabriel Reyes
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jeff Crompton
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arts
At times this provided a fascinating glimpse of the world of classical music from the point of view of a world-class composer, but I have to admit, much of it went right over my head. I figured since I had recently listened to 48 lectures of a Great Courses audiobook about classical music I was now an expert on classical music. Well, not exactly.
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Murakami Haruki (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as 'easily accessible, yet profoundly complex'. He can be located on Facebook at:

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by Am

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