Harrys Wondrous World

Absolutely on Music: Conversations by Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa

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Absolutely on Music

Translated from Japanese by Jay Rubin

Summary

“A deeply personal, intimate conversation about music and writing between the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

In Absolutely on Music, internationally Haruki Murakami sits down with his friend Seiji Ozawa, the revered former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a series of conversations on their shared passion: music. Over the course of two years, Murakami and Ozawa discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from Bartók to Mahler, and from pop-up orchestras to opera. They listen to and dissect recordings of some of their favorite performances, and Murakami questions Ozawa about his career conducting orchestras around the world. Culminating in Murakami’s ten-day visit to the banks of Lake Geneva to observe Ozawa’s retreat for young musicians, the book is interspersed with ruminations on record collecting, jazz clubs, orchestra halls, film scores, and much more. A deep reflection on the essential nature of both music and writing, Absolutely on Music is an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of two maestros.

A selection of the music discussed by Murakami and Ozawa is available at harukimurakami.com.”

From Amazon.com

Review

This book is certainly something I would never really read, however the cover really did catch my attention and had me curious as to what the book was about. Now I will say up front that I skimmed the last 50 or so pages of a 325 page book just because the book was kind of repetitive and since I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the music that was being spoken about, I had troubles understanding everything they were referencing.

Additionally, this book is definitely for musicians just because of some of the lingo expressed and I can tell you now that some of the ways that music is described will be hard to understand for someone who is not a musician

Ozawa was certainly an interesting person to interview and he has lead such an interesting and impressive life. He has gotten countless awards and it is not surprise with the way that he understands music and the way that music really flows through him. He’d be able to listen to a piece of music and recall who played certain instruments and explain why the orchestra sounded the way that it did. When I listened to some of the pieces mentioned while I was reading the book, what he was speaking of only became clear to me when I read what he had said. I would never have really noticed the subtle differences like he had. Of course he is a master of music and just understand it and studies it and becomes one with the music. He is such an inspiration to me, as a musician, and as a persona as well as he’s so accomplished, no matter how difficult the road was.

The format of the book was unique as well as it is set up in an interview format and I haven’t really read books like that before. They’ve never really gained  my attention and it was also one of the reasons that I finished the book, but it was still enjoyable overall.

Even if you are not interested in music, looking at this book may just be beneficial to you as there are lessons within the book that you can still learn. I also feel that this book is a book you do not need to read from start to finish as it is broken up into chapters and then sections. All the sections are a different piece of music and all of the chapters work out to be a separate interview.

Overall, I did enjoy Absolutely on Music. It was unique and really opened my eyes to show me, as a musician, just how much more is in the music. I was always aware of the fact that there was more, but seeing just how much more a human being can find within music was incredibly impressive.

I do recommend the book, even to just dip into it, and to have a new experience.

Happy Reading!

Harrys Wondrous World

Strike a Chord: My Piano and I

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Strike a Chord.”

Music is the center of my life. It always has been. Yes, it started off with no choice, my mother quite literally forcing me to continue to play the piano (with much whining on my part) but then it developed into a serious, and deep, love. I play all the time. Do I practice for my lessons all the time? Absolutely not. To be blunt, I hate practicing and I’ll definitely avoid doing it, though I know that it is better to do it and it is very productive. I’m the person that loves to just sit down and play. I’m quite good at just sight-reading the music and what I call BS-playing (where you just kind..go with it? xD). But, it sounds pretty good. That’s my problem. ‘Cus I can get by.

The piano has always been my baby. I played an upright for years until my music school, the place I love and adore, decided to sell a few of their older, smaller sized, grands and I begged and pleaded with my parents and was gifted with a new piano. It’s not in great condition, the varnish is very strange (water proof to save it from little children), the music stand doesn’t match the piano, the bench is scratched, some of the notes don’t work and it needs a lot of work (which will cost so much money >Painful face<) but despite all of that, I love it. It’s a familiar friend and we’ve been through so much together. So many hours of practicing, so many moments of me having frustrating moments, moments of fear before competitions. It is, in all honesty, one of my best friends. Call me crazy, I dare you xD, but it’s the honest to god truth. The sound is rich, the keys are powerful, and my hands have developed because of my best friend (no I haven’t named it…yet).

I’m pretty versatile with what I can play. Dabbling in some percussion, recorder, flute, I dabbled in guitar but gave up, and touched the harp. But nothing, absolutely nothing, comes close to piano. Piano and voice together is what I do. And it’s what I live, breathe, and revolve around. No, I can’t go out and say I play about 20 instruments, but I can go out and say “I play the piano” and to me, that is all I need. I don’t need to show off with the number of instruments that I play.

But while I love my instrument, I sometimes hate it. And my reason is weird as heck.

The piano is the least intimate of instruments. You sit on a bench…and press keys. Wow. Yes, don’t get me wrong, there is skill and all instruments require impressive skill to play well, but you don’t get to be with the instruments. Cello you have to hold close to you, violin needs to be held to your body, wind instruments you use your lips, drums you even get to be surrounded by. Piano you sit there. And while most people don’t even think about it, it’s true. You can’t carry your instrument with you places either. Violinists become best friends with their violin, and same with many other instruments. You get an instrument and go everywhere with it. Pianists go to their venue or event and the piano there they aren’t familiar with. The struggle is realllll!!! But, you have to get accustomed to the change and you don’t get that until you mature. Some never get it because they are stubborn. “It doesn’t feel like the one at home.” or “It doesn’t feel like the one I practice on.” You have to get to the level where you become best friends.

My piano teacher is good friends with a famous pianist by the name of Menahem Pressler. During a lesson not so long ago, my teacher told me that Mr. Pressler had made a comment during a master class, and to sum up what was said, he essentially said that pianists have to become best friends with their instrument before they play and find the best quality in the piano and bring it out for the concert. Essentially no piano, especially ones that you play on for a concert once or twice, will be perfect in every way. You just have to find the really positive thing about it. Even if that G is rich, bring that note out and make it the most beautiful note in your piece. The smallest things can make the biggest difference.

Either way. Through everything that has happened in my life in music, it is something I can go back to. I’m the idiot that when I go places for a long period of time one of the first questions I ask is, “Is there a piano nearby?” Music is a constant and the piano is what I do and love. Without it, my life would change drastically. Got a problem? Play it out.

My piano and I will be something that I won’t change and won’t be changed. My piano and I are forever. My piano and I are eternal.

(Deep ending huh? xD)