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Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  4,803 ratings  ·  615 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
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 1st 2016 by Harvill Secker (first published November 30th 2011)
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Popular Answered Questions
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
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ja...

If you get some details on the two birds, please share, it's kind on intriguing for me as well.(less)
Eric Wang Hi Tiffany, although I'm not a professional musician, I am someone who has played and studied classical music for most of my life in many orchestral a…moreHi Tiffany, although I'm not a professional musician, I am someone who has played and studied classical music for most of my life in many orchestral and chamber settings. Hopefully you find my take helpful!

I personally really liked this book, even if at times the conversation seems to go off track since it was put together through interviews rather than written as an in-depth dive into the specifics of classical music. The things that really allowed me to appreciate the conversations were (1) the fact that I had listened to all the pieces they talked about and (2) the fact that I also play a musical instrument in orchestral and chamber settings, so have myself experienced the same struggles with the technical and interpretative aspects of playing classical music, albeit to a much lower standard than Ozawa has. Although I don't think any particularly revolutionary idea was introduced, somethign Murakami and Ozawa are both really good at is articulating the techniques behind creating good music so that anyone can understand it; this is especially helpful for a musician who tries to do many of the same things using only their intuition.

Often times, I wished Ozawa would go into even more depth about the music, like when he's talking about how Mahler departs from the traditional German tradition of symphony writing. Since Murakami isn't a musician himself but just a really experienced listener, I felt Ozawa couldn't talk about specific musical theory concepts which in my view would have enhanced the conversation.

I think this is a book worth rereading, especially as you gain more familiarity with the music they talk about; for myself, I'm not a big opera listener, so their conversation about opera generally fell quite flat for me. However, I loved their discussion of symphonic and chamber works since those are the ones with which I am most well acquainted. Listening to the music they talk about before you dive into their conversation would be ideal, so you can recall how things are supposed to sound. Equally, paying attention to the phrases and types of sound which are being created as you listen to each work, as Murakami does so well, will enhance your appreciation for what's going on in the discussion.

Finally, I would also recommend going online and watching some interpretive lectures or masterclasses; my favourites are from Leonard Bernstein and Benjamin Zander, who unpack the process of interpretation behind many works, symphonic and chamber. I hope this answer helped!(less)

Community Reviews

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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
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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 ...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
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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, despite his
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Philippe
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
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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
Tina
Jan 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
As a professional musician, I opened this book with a great deal of enthusiasm; how exciting for an appreciative musical amateur to glean insight from a great conductor and share it with the world, with the intention of making it accessible to an amateur musical audience. I wanted so badly to love this book.
Unfortunately, Murakami does most of the talking, and he pushes (shoves, molds, and bullies) the conversation where he wants it to go, rather than asking his questions and letting Ozawa share
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Hannah
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
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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.
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Kenny
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!
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 ...more
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
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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
SeanT_C2
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
Holly
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
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
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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
Shatarupa  Dhar
Absolutely on Music is a book of conversations between Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa, with the former as the interviewer and the latter as the interviewee.

Synopsis
Divided into six conversations between Murakami and Ozawa, with interesting interludes in between, Absolutely on Music—or My Afternoons with Seiji Ozawa (as Murakami would have liked to title it)—is a riveting read for lovers of both music and the written word.

Review
When two masters in their respective fields talk, you listen
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Patrick
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
Kathy
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
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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 ...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
Laura
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. ...more
Johann Jacob
Mar 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
BOOK REVIEW/RECOMMENDATION: As someone who loves Murakami’s work and who is a conductor and teacher by profession, I could kick myself for not reading this sooner. However, this book was a salve in our current period of compulsory isolation where many artists have experienced a severing from their craft, so possibly the timing was perfect. Murakami considers himself a musical writer and it’s always been obvious that a vast imagination centered around his ideas of music and rhythm serve at the co ...more
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!
Shaimaa Ali
Aug 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That was an inspiring read. To drive me to search and listen to Classic music that was a drastic change of character I would say :-) I enjoyed the conversations between Murakami and music conductor Ozawa and consider this book one of its kind!
Arezoo h
Sep 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely joyful...
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 Murakami's m
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Play Book Tag: Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami 4 stars 3 23 Jan 27, 2017 04:10PM  

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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: https://www.facebook.com/harukimuraka...

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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80 likes · 10 comments
“As Duke Ellington once said, “There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.” In that sense, jazz and classical music are fundamentally the same. The pure joy one experiences listening to “good” music transcends questions of genre.” 17 likes
“Creative people have to be fundamentally egoistic. This may sound pompous, but it happens to be the truth. People who live their lives watching what goes on around them, trying not to make waves, and looking for the easy compromise are not going to be able to do creative work, whatever their field. To build something where there was nothing requires deep individual concentration, and in most cases that kind of concentration occurs in a place unrelated to cooperation with others, a place we might even call dämonisch.” 14 likes
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