What happens when a conductor and a novelist talk about music

Posted on: November 11, 2016

“Who knew that one of literature’s most interesting contemporary novelists also happens to have an extraordinary set of ears? It’s true,” writes Scott Esposito in Thursday’s (11/10) San Francisco Chronicle. “In Absolutely on Music, a book of conversations between prominent Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa and perennial Nobel favorite Haruki Murakami, the latter proves himself an amazingly acute listener of classical music…. Ozawa has him listen to a [recorded] performance of Brahms’s First Symphony [that] has been slightly edited in two places … and Ozawa wants to know where. Armed with a copy of the unedited recording, plus the commercial CD, Murakami manages to discover one of the two…. If this feat of auditory accuracy is the sort of thing that lights up your mind, then Absolutely on Music is absolutely for you. Ozawa and Murakami’s conversations tend to revolve around the small but crucial differences that separate one orchestral performance from another, in the process dragging in everything from the history of classical to twelve-tone composition…. Particularly fascinating is Ozawa and Murakami’s discussion of the great Viennese conductor Gustav Mahler, who filled his scores with hundreds ‘of little directives for every instrument,’ specifying exactly how to perform his symphonies.”

Posted November 11, 2016

Photo of Seiji Ozawa and Haruki Murakami courtesy Random House