Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa Kindle

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 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 telling stories or giving impressions of the artists Eventually we stood before the painting The Conductor by Nguyen Thanh Binh, a Vietnamese painter We stood there, drinks in hand, and I said that to me the piece was not just about a conductor but was really about the creation, the moment of creation, of a piece of art There is as yet this unformed idea It appears at first glance that the artist is staring into the void But, oh, there is something out there, like the wind, which is about to explode It could be a conductor about to summon the first note or maybe, I said, it could be a trial attorney about to begin his closing argument My guest stared at the man in black, at the minimalist swaying, and eventually he said, This is it You have to understand, they are all first class musicians, each brilliant but they are not your friends The idea of this book intrigued me conversations between Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa about music They, too, ate, drank and talked Their discussions were, mostly,structured than the one I described above Murakami would take a piece of music, say Beethoven s Third Piano Concerto, and play it for Ozawa But he would play different recordings of the piece from his collection Gould and Karajan, Gould and Bernstein, Serkin and Bernstein, Serkin and Ozawa, Uchida and Sanderling As the piece played in its various incarnations, Ozawa and Murakami would discuss difference in style and interpretation That ismusical nuance than I need or, for that matter, am capable of But the structure allowed for some wonderful insights and phrasings And tidbits Music, of course, is an art that occurs through time, Ozawa said, in discussing his difficulty in taking an Alban Berg score from reading tounderstanding And, quoting Schoenberg music is not a sound but an idea , Ozawa told Murakami that reading a score of music is an artistic experience It amazed me that Ozawa never heard Mahler performed until he had started reading scores of Mahler s symphonies He knew immediately he had entered a different world.One of the Conversations occurred after Ozawa invited Murakami to attend the Seiji Ozawa International Academy in Switzerland Very highly skilled string players in their twenties, mostly play string quartets under the tutelage of Ozawa and a few others I can t begin to describe how jealous I am that Murakami was permitted to observe.Perhaps my favorite Conversation was the one Murakami and Ozawa had about blues and jazz When he was in Chicago, Ozawa would sneak out at night and visit blues bars He became such a regular they used to let him sneak in through a side entrance These are conversations, remember So, at one point, Ozawa kind of stops their chat and says, By the way, do they still play the blues in Chicago This floored me, and made me do a double and triple take, because that line Do they still play the blues in Chicagois the start of the chorus in the great Steve Goodman song, A Dying Cub Fan s Last Request they re both fans of Junko Onishi So, as a public service last thing I don t know how they did it, but the transcribed dialogue between Murakami and Ozawa sounded just like two characters talking in a Murakami novel Maybe it s because of Murakami s long time translator, Jay Rubin But perhaps it s explained by this observation by Murakami No one ever taught me how to write, and I ve never made a study of writing techniques So how did I learn to write From listening to music And what s the most important thing in writing It s rhythm No one s going to read what you write unless it s got rhythm. 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 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 not always equally satisfying In their first conversation, Murakami puts Ozawa in a chair and subjects him to a review of different performances of Beethoven s Third Piano Concerto including one of his own recordings Ozawa doesn t seem to be really interested, and the exchange is rather wooden He even admits not liking those manic record collectors people with lots of money, superb music reproduction equipment, and tons of records You go in, and they ve got everything ever recorded by Furtw ngler, say, but the people themselves are so busy they can t spend any time at home listening to music It s a curiously judgmental statement, particularly by a Japanese, which I take to be an expression of Ozawa s annoyance with Murakami s opening conversational gambit Slowly Murakami gets on track The second conversation zooms in on Ozawa s relationship with the Saito Kinen orchestra he helped to establish This is a group of elite players that comes together for a month each year to study and perform carefully selected, string oriented repertoire under Ozawa s guidance The sixth and final exchange is set against the background of another one of the conductor s pet projects, the summertime Ozawa Acedemy for young string players on the shores of Lake Geneva In between they talk about Ozawa s experiences in the 1960s as assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein, his love for opera Ozawa led the Wiener Staatsoper for eight years and his relationship to the music of Mahler Overall I have mixed feelings about the book Ozawa is a superbly intuitive artist but not a great thinker about music At one point he admits You know, talking about these things with you like this, it s gradually begun to dawn on me that I m not the kind of person who thinks about things in this way When I study a piece of music, I concentrate fairly deeply on the score And theI concentrate, probably, the less I think about other things I just think about the music itself I guess I could say that I depend entirely on what comes between me and the music Later on in the book, this is reinforced when he says Yes, in both my conducting and my teaching I don t approach either with preconceived ideas I don t have anything to say until I ve got a musician right in front of me So Ozawa is at his best when he reminisces about his contacts with fellow conductors Karajan amongst them , soloists and opera singers But he is uncommunicative when the conversation veers away from the personal and experiential I sympathised with Murakami in the sense that, as a classical music aficionado, I m coming from a very similar place Like him, I ve built up a vast record collection and amassed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the field But also I am not able to play an instrument or read music So there is this curious and frustrating feeling of being shut out of this world we love so much On the whole, Murakami does a commendable job as an amateur music lover and interviewer Nevertheless, I found myself frustrated in many cases by his coquettish but unnecessary display of expertise or his failure to follow up on interesting leads For instance, one motto theme throughout the book is Ozawa s deep love for the orchestra s string section He picked this up from his early mentor Professor Saito who promoted an idea of talkative strings However, the deeper grounds for this fascination with strings remain in the dark Murakami never digs deeper into the issue I wonder who the target audience is for this book Readers who are not familiar with classical music will be put off by the endless parade of composers and performers names I personally, as an experienced listener, didn t pick up a lot of new things from this book Certainly, Ozawa shares some amusing anecdotes And one gets a still very fragmented perspective on his long career Also scattered through the book are the elements of a blurry, somewhat coherent picture of how Ozawa understands his craft as a conductor But again, Murakami does not pull together these strands in the narrative Probably the most interesting experience related to this book is that it prompted me to reflect on what questions I would like to ask when faced with the opportunity to sit down with a person like Seiji Ozawa It s not an easy question to answer My former interactions with scholars, musicians and composers have led to mutual bewilderment as we seem to be interested in very different things The Georgian composer Giya Kancheli once laughed out loud and reproached me for taking music too seriously Don t think about it, he said, You just have to let it wash over you 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 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 friends, and it is a privilege to be able to eavesdrop on these two legends Since I read all things Murakami, I had to read this It turned out to be wonderful I guess theyou know about music, the better it would be I know a little and learned a lotBut 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 Since I read all things Murakami, I had to read this It turned out to be wonderful I guess theyou know about music, the better it would be I know a little and learned a lotBut 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 disclaimers, seems to know a lot about music He is a well if self educated amateur who knows how to listen carefully and critically but with great appreciation and love for music He understands the soul of it His questions elicited fascinating responses from Ozawa and his own comments were enlightening as well.The dialogue between the two men was intelligent but also warm, with touches of humor and a great common love for music.I loved this book I think it is a valuable book for anyone who cares about music or,generally, the process of creating art 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 OrchestraHaruki 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 Pilgrimage, the aesthetic and emotional power of music permeates every one of his much loved books Now, in Absolutely on Music, Murakami fulfills a personal dream, sitting down with his friend, acclaimed conductor Seiji Ozawa, to talk, over a period of two years, about their shared interest Transcribed from lengthy conversations about the nature of music and writing, here they discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from record collecting to pop up orchestras, and much Ultimately this book gives readers an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of the two maestros It is essential reading for book and music lovers everywhere 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 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 fell short of what I had hoped for.I expected the book to be conversations on music, but most of it is conversations primarily jumpstarted by Murakami on conducting I suppose I should have expected that, since Ozawa ia a conductor, but I d hoped that there would bediscussion on music in general That was somewhat disappointing for me, but, as I say, I should have expected it I did learn a bit about a conductor s role and about certain compositions, so I m grateful for that.I had some differences of opinion with certain things that were said, and that s a good thing If I agreed with everything I read in a non fiction book, there would be no point in reading However, there was a point offered that was factually incorrect There is discussion of Leonard Bernstein reviving Gustav Mahler s music for concert audiences Murakami makes the statement Afterward after WW II it fell to America, and not Europe, to become the powerhouse for the current Mahler revival I don t know about powerhouse Bernstein certainly had a heavy duty publicity machine behind him , but Jascha Horenstein conducted Mahler in Europe in the 1950 s, and the 1959 performance he conducted of Mahler s 8th Symphony at Royal Albert Hall is considered by many to be the beginning of the Mahler revival.I would have thought that either a renowned conductor like Ozawa or a fanatical record collector like Murakami would have had some knowledge of that fact.A minor nitpick about the book that annoyed me a bit is that Ozawa continually refers to Bernstein as Lenny , while he refers to Herbert von Karajan as Maestro Karajan or the Maestro Perhaps Bernstein had a less formal relationship with his assistants, and didn t mind being called Lenny, while Karajan wanted to be called Maestro I don t know But Karajan had been dead for over twenty years when the conversations for this book were recorded, so at least to my mind there was no need to continue referring to him as Maestro Karajan It may be that Ozawa didn t respect Bernstein although he gave Ozawa his first appointment as assistant conductor and Ozawa made his first concert appearance with the NY Philharmonic when he was Bernstein s assistant and did respect Karajan Again, I don t know It just seemed strange to me.I did learn things from reading this book, but it was just a case of overly high expectations that weren t met i feel like this is probably really really good if you know a lotabout 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 agoOzawa ha ha okayMurakami Let s stop the tape at 3 39, I m intrigued by the timpani hiss here, why did you do thatOzawa huh never noticed that before, don t rememberMurakami I seeMurakami I will now ask you to listen to this recordin i feel like this is probably really really good if you know a lotabout 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 agoOzawa ha ha okayMurakami Let s stop the tape at 3 39, I m intrigued by the timpani hiss here, why did you do thatOzawa huh never noticed that before, don t rememberMurakami I seeMurakami I will now ask you to listen to this recording of the same piece you made thirty five years agoOzawa has a note in the afterword saying Murakami sure loves music He loves it to a frightening degree I could kinda go with him about running in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running but that book wasn t a conversation with, idk, someone who is very good at running, and did not assume quite as much background knowledgeThe best part is the part where Ozawa is teaching the students to become True Musicians, but it happens right at the end and takes some slogging to get toI talked about this book with someone in a bar while waiting for a friend to show up for a business meeting he was a composer who worked for the post office and said this book was very good if you were a composer, so add another star maybe if you are one dynamic scoring 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 onthan music So well worth a read if you enjoy this topic or if it sounds interesting to you. 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 , 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 isthan a discussion of music, it also brings up history After all, Ozawa was an assistant conductor to Leonard Berns 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 , 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 isthan a discussion of music, it also brings up history After all, Ozawa was an assistant conductor to Leonard Bernstein for 3 years and worked with others in music history We also gain insights into Ozawa and his life, albeit not all in a neat, package of chronological tidiness.If you are a fan of Murakami s novels I can t say I am I tried one and didn t care for it and haven t tried another , this is not the same sort of writing Much of it is interviews with Ozawa, which have been transcribed There are little interludes with lovely morsels of information, and there is an afterword by Ozawa 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 Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa


About the Author: Haruki Murakami

Murakami Haruki Japanese is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator His work has been described aseasily accessible, yet profoundly complexHe can be located on Facebook at childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehousePeter Catwhich was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind Up Bird Chronicle The Thieving Magpie after Rossini s opera , Bird as Prophet after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird , and The Bird Catcher a character in Mozart s opera The Magic Flute Some of his novels take their titles from songs Dance, Dance, Dance after The Dells song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune , Norwegian Wood after The Beatles song and South of the Border, West of the Sun the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole.


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