Review: Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami - 8/10*
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 renowned Seiji Ozawa, former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Murakami admits to a sense of kinship he found in Ozawa; they both produce art, and they go about it in very different ways, though they are both pushed forward with the same sense of drive: an absolute love of their work. It's what they live for; it's who they are. That being said though, it is by no means a one way conversation. In matters of music Ozawa is the master and Murakami a mere amateur; however, they still both respect and admire each other's opinions. They question each other to learn more as their friendship grows.
They discuss music ranging from Beethoven to all manner of operas, and due to the nature of Ozawa's music the discussions mainly rest on classical music rather than anything more up-beat. I think the more you know about music the more enjoyable you will find this book. I know very little about the formal qualities of music, though I feel like I learnt a little bit whilst reading this. For someone who knows all the nuances the two discuss, the book will certainly be more enjoyable for them when compared to someone with a pedestrian level of knowledge.
What I found most interesting was the comments Murakami made about music and writing; he said that "I am writing as if I'm making music" and goes on to explain what he meant, at least, as best he can to Ozawa. He attributes it to Jazz and the rhythm it produces, arguing that prose has to have rhythm for it to be decent writing; it needs to be moving ever forward, carrying momentum into the next sentence, in order for it to be effective. Ozawa does not fully understand the concept. I don't fully understand it either, but that's unimportant because Murakami does and his success speaks for itself. Such is the nature of art.
Ozawa, for his part, appreciated Murakami's enthusiasm despite his lack of technical knowledge and provides a very characteristic afterward reflecting on the nature of the project. For the right reader, this will be immensely entertaining. The two men share a passion for music and it runs through the entirety of their conversations, though you will also need to possess the same passion to appreciate the nature of the book. As such I only recommend it to those who can keep up with the nature of the content as it may wash over others.