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Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa talk music, art and creativity
One writes fiction, the other conducts an orchestra, but Murakami and Ozawa share a drive, determination – and a passion for music. They discuss the creative process, inspiration and the eclecticism of Mahler
Seiji Ozawa, left, and Ozawa Murakami.
Haruki Murakami, Seiji Ozawa

Saturday 5 November 2016 14.00 GMT


Secondly, we both maintain the same “hungry heart” we possessed in our youth, that persistent feeling that “this is not good enough”, that we must dig deeper, forge farther ahead. This is the major motif of our work and our lives. Observing Ozawa in action, I could feel the depth and intensity of the desire he brought to his work. He was convinced of his own rightness and proud of what he was doing, but not in the least satisfied with it. I could see he knew he should be able to make the music even better, even deeper, and he was determined to make it happen even as he struggled with the constraints of time and his own physical strength.


ニューヨークタイムズの書評で面白いと思ったのは対談でもFact Checkしているところ。どうしても我々は有名人の話はそのまま聞いてしまいますよね。。

Review: ‘Absolutely on Music’ Gives a Maestro a Stage for Ideas
Books of The Times


There is much good, solid musical discussion and information here. But there are also too many muddled volleys off the top of the head, lacking the needed factual follow-up and correction.

In a conversation about the quality of the sound at Carnegie Hall, Mr. Ozawa recalls a live taping there of Brahms’s First Symphony with the Saito Kinen Orchestra in 2010: “When we recorded this,” he said, “I hadn’t been there for some time, and I’m pretty sure it changed in that time. It got a lot better.”

Mr. Murakami: “I heard it was renovated.”

Mr. Ozawa: “Oh, really? That makes sense.”

Mr. Ozawa led the Vienna Philharmonic in three concerts at Carnegie in 2004. “I remember then thinking that the sound had improved,” he says. “It certainly hadn’t when I was there with the Boston Symphony” some eight years before.

But this is all balderdash. The wholesale renovation of Carnegie took place in 1986, and the concrete left under the stage floor was removed in 1995. No changes significantly affecting the acoustics have been made since.



MURAKAMI: Now that you mention it, Mann said a lot about the breath. When people sing, they have to take a breath as some point. But “unfortunately,” he said, string instruments don’t have to breath, so you have to keep the breath in mind as you play. That “unfortunately” was interesting. He also talked a lot about silence. Silence is not just the absence of sound: there is a sound called silence.
OZAWA: Ah, that’s the same thing as the Japanese idea of ma. The same concept comes up in gagaku, and in playing the biwa and the shakuhachi. It’s very much like that. This kind of ma is written into the score in some Western music, but there is also some in which it’s not written. Mann has a very good understanding of these things.



OZAWA: Yes, in both my conducting and my teaching. I don’t approach either with preconceived ideas. I don’t prepare beforehand but decide on the spot when I see who I’m dealing with. I respond then and there when I see how they are handling things. Somebody like me could never write an instruction manual. I don’t have anything to say until I’ve got a musician right in front of me.
MURAKAMI: And then, depending on who that musician is, it changes what you say. It must be good for the students to have the two of you in combination: you, with your flexible approach, and Robert Mann, with his unwavering philosophy. I bet it works out very well.
OZAWA: Yes, I think so.



OZAWA: … you can pour a lot of time into rehearsing each one. Take the rehearsals we’re doing now: we probe very deeply into each piece. And the more you rehearse, the more difficulties come to the surface.
MURAKAMI: You mean, the more time you spend rehearsing, the more difficult become the various hurdles that need to be cleared?
OZAWA: That’s right. You may get them to where they’re all breathing together, but still the parts are perfectly synced. The nuances of sound are a little off, say, or the rhythms are not quite together. So you put lots of time into refining each of these tiny details. That way, tomorrow’s performance should be at an even higher level. So then you demand even more from them. This process teachers me an awful lot.

そうそう今週のNew York TimesのBook ReviewでThe SympathizerやNothing Ever Diesのベトナム系作家Viet Thanh Nguyenが夕食会に呼びたい三人の作家に村上春樹を選んでました。

Viet Thanh Nguyen: By the Book
JAN. 30, 2017

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Haruki Murakami, since it seems unlikely I’ll ever meet him. He can curate the music and cook spaghetti. Carrie Fisher, for her wit and bravura. Lastly, John Berger. I love that Berger gave half his Booker Prize money in 1972 to the Black Panthers, and used the other half to fund the research for his next book on migrant laborers. Berger was the kind of writer we need more of — politically committed, aesthetically serious, always curious.