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Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

Review

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa

written by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin

The best music I have ever listened to was never something I studied academically; it was always recommended to me by passionate friends, or discovered connecting with my fellow music lovers of the world. For younger music fans, it may have all started mulling over Nirvana in the schoolyard, or listening to Bob Dylan with their college roommates. Now, the book ABSOLUTELY ON MUSIC elevates that same type of musical dialogue to its adult equivalent, exploring classical music from Brahms to Mahler, and jazz as well.

Many know Japanese writer Haruki Murakami as a leader in postmodern literature with his novels THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE and 1Q84, but what is now revealed is how he is an avid listener and deep thinker when it comes to music. ABSOLUTELY ON MUSIC was realized when Murakami’s insatiable musical appetite was met with the lifetime expertise of acclaimed conductor Seiji Ozawa, as they transcribed the key parts of a musical dialogue undertaken over a two-year period. It is no coincidence that when the internationally commended author (and obsessive jazz club owner) meets with the longtime Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor, a lengthy and compelling discussion on music and writing blossoms into its full potential.

"ABSOLUTELY ON MUSIC is where a passionate communicator meets a musical master, making for a melodiously provocative and special occasion."

To me, the offhand talk of record collecting and the inner workings of orchestras was the most charming part of the book. The vast majority of ABSOLUTELY ON MUSIC is a highly developed conversation on classical music --- both well known and obscure. As a person without a lifelong understanding of classical music, it was challenging to share the excitement of their insightful breakthroughs, although I found the entire experience to be an interesting one. What it did do, however, was make me brush up on my Bach. There is enough fodder to fuel an endless voyage into classical music, and it will make you want to buy the records they speak of to share the familiarity and benefit from their intuitive comprehension. There is more of an emphasis on the classical content than the jazz overall.

ABSOLUTELY ON MUSIC is the perfect book to expand your musical tastes into classical music. If you want to stay rock n’ roll to the core, I will not be the one stop you, but if you desire to broaden your musical horizons by adding a touch of subtlety, maybe listening to a cool jazzman or classical prodigy is not so bad after all. Murakami and Ozawa are engaging on their own, and when you put these two vibrant conversationalists together, the result is purely enlightening musical magic. They talk casually yet aim for the profound, and unmistakably enjoy being in each other’s company.

Music lovers are lucky to have access to the meetings of Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa. It is a unique experience to hear such a popular author reveal his musical cravings and be able to make it valuable --- not merely noteworthy because he is a famous writer and has an opinion. ABSOLUTELY ON MUSIC is where a passionate communicator meets a musical master, making for a melodiously provocative and special occasion.

Reviewed by John Bentlyewski on November 29, 2016

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa
written by Haruki Murakami, translated by Jay Rubin

  • Publication Date: November 15, 2016
  • Genres: Music, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0385354347
  • ISBN-13: 9780385354349