Haruki Murakami’s latest book, Absolutely on Music: Conversations is a deep dive into the world of classical music with his friend, famed classical music conductor Seiji Ozawa. As the title implies, rather than a traditional prose book, this one is a quite literally a compilation and transcript of their conversations.
The two men dive deep into Ozawa’s discography and storied career as a conductor of numerous prominent orchestras. Murakami, a long-time fan of both classical music and Ozawa’s, exposes his own breadth of knowledge (surprising even the conductor with his record collection). Ozawa readily divulges his own insights into music and sound. Throughout, the two expose some of the similarities between the practices of a novelist and a conductor.
Absolutely on Music is crafted more for those who are already interested in classical music. While those without any knowledge of Messiaen or Symphonie fantastique, no doubt will find certain bits in their conversation enlightening and enjoyable, there are countless other moments that dive into how to read scores and musical expressiveness varying between the sounds of orchestras.
I also wish that somehow we had reached an era where integrating media and books had progressed further. Murakami and Ozawa often listens to snippets of recordings while they chat, and it would be lovely to be able to hear alongside them as you progress through the book. No doubt the most dedicated can make it happen, but I merely read and imagined (poorly) what they sounded like from Murakami’s descriptions (vivid as they are, don’t really cut it). Though it gets a bit technical, and lacks a synchronized audio soundtrack, it’s an interesting inside peek at music, art, life, and their crossroads.
Plus these little charming lines:
Ozawa: Is it okay if I eat this o-nigiri rice ball?
Murakami: Please do. I’ll make tea.