Murakami: Absolutely on Music (Book)
“Murakami note: I thought about this afterward and realized that part of me has always derived a lot of joy from collecting records, which maybe makes me like one of those “manic record collectors” that Ozawa was talking about.
I don’t see my own collecting as “manic,” but I’m fairly obsessive, so I do have a tendency to become more or less obsessed with certain things. For
example, in my teens I fell in love with Mozart’s String Quartet no. 15 in D Minor (K. 421), one of the six “Haydn” quartets, in a set recorded by the Juilliard String Quartet, and for a time I listened to it exclusively, again and again. So even now, if someone mentions K. 421, I automatically start hearing the Juilliard’s keen-edged performance in my head and picture the
It’s imprinted there, and it tends to be the internal standard by which I judge other performances. Records were expensive back then, and I would give my undivided attention to each precious disc, so in my mind (and with a degree of fetishism) a piece of music and the material thing on which it was recorded often comprised an indivisible unit. This may not be entirely natural, but since I didn’t play music myself, it was the only way I could engage with it.
Once I had made a little money, I started buying other records and enthusiastically attending concerts. Then I discovered the joy of comparing performances by different musicians—of relativizing the music, in other words. In this way, over time, I gave shape to what each piece of music meant to me.
By contrast, when one relates to music, as Ozawa does, primarily by reading scores, music must become purer, more internalized. Or at least it is not so readily identified with tangible things. The difference may be quite substantial. I imagine that relating to music like that must be
very free and open. It may be a bit like the enjoyment and freedom of being able to read foreign literature in the original, rather than in translation. Arnold Schoenberg has said that “music is not a sound but an idea,” but ordinary people can’t listen to it that way.
When I told Ozawa that I envied his ability to do so, he suggested that I study to the point of being able to read a score. “Music would become even more interesting for you than it is now,” he said. I took some piano
lessons many years ago, so I can read a simple piece of music, but I would be lost in a complex score such as a Brahms symphony.
“If you studied for a few months with a good instructor, I’m sure you could learn to read that well,” he urged me, but I’m not ready to go that far. I do feel I’d like to give it a try someday, but I have no idea when that will happen.
We were chatting along these lines one day before an interview session when it struck me, in a precise, three-dimensional way, that there is a fundamental difference that separates the way we understand music. This was an extremely important realization. It’s hardly for me to point out
how very high the wall is that separates the pro from the amateur, the music maker from the listener.
The wall is especially high and thick when that music maker is a world-class professional. But still, that fact doesn’t have to hamper our ability to have an honest, direct conversation. At least that’s how I feel about it, because music itself is a thing of such breadth and generosity. Our most important task is to search for an effective passageway through the wall—and two people who share a natural affinity for an art, any art, will be sure to find that passageway.”
(Excerpt from the book)
Brahms – Intermezzo Op. 118 No. 2
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