...one of this book’s central pleasures is that of watching a kind of translation at work. With an enthusiast’s brio, Murakami sallies forth with his idiosyncratic, often fanciful ideas about Ozawa’s music ... Though [certain] expositions might not always, on the page, be entirely intelligible, they’re also some of the most beguiling, straining as they do against the limits of what can be expressed in words ... for those who aren’t already devoted to classical music, the book may be of limited appeal ... Still, Absolutely on Music is an unprecedented treasure, valuable if for no other reason than that these conversations mark the first time that Ozawa has reflected at length on his 50-plus years of conducting.
It’s an effective pairing: readable, accessible, highly entertaining, educational. Ozawa provides all the deep knowledge of a storied classical career, while Murakami supplies his trademark down-to-earth metaphors and a layperson’s curiosity ... What most fascinates about Absolutely on Music is how it unlocks the challenging question of what makes for genius in the performance of music ... a pleasing step away from the increasing banality and sameness of Murakami’s fiction, a book that opens a new side of his authorial persona and that will open doors for people who want to love classical music. It is a quirky, oddly compelling book carried along by the smooth, laid-back rhythms of its relaxing conversations.
Since Mr. Murakami asks most of the questions, which are generally pitched at an elementary level and often repetitive, the musical novice should have no great difficulty with the concepts addressed here ... 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.
...the Murakami cup runneth over with essays, travel books, newspaper column anthologies, and several meditations on music, especially jazz. Introducing this collection of one-on-one talks with an elder countryman whom he has long admired and now considers a friend, Murakami describes jazz and classical as the twin poles of his listening life since adolescence .... The sheer enthusiasm on display in Absolutely on Music, though, will inspire some of the discouraged to return to the concert hall ...a book that has its own way of dividing up time, space, and theme...take pleasure in following a favorite writer as he crosses the membranes, with eagerness and occasional awkwardness, between Japan and the West, between classical and jazz, between prose and conversation, and between the written word and the conducted score.
...a strange and delightful book ... While he defers to Ozawa on technical matters, [Murakami] describes music with rich and suggestive metaphors and images that capture something essential about the spirit of the music.
Like What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, it shows Murakami’s gift for writing about a subject unpretentiously, but in detail, betraying its enthusiasm only through the act of writing ... Absolutely On Music makes for a useful guide to the nitty-gritty of concert music for the uninitiated ... it is also, on a subtler level, about the way the concert hall’s values of composition and rhythm can apply to any kind of creative life.
On paper, that dialogue reads like a playscript, and while it’s fairly short on plot, Absolutely on Music is packed with insights likely to enthrall music lovers ... What comes through in these conversations is the devotion both men feel for music; the degree to which every detail of a work matters to them; and the strength of their yearning to connect to great symphonies and concertos ... The biographical details are fascinating, too ... In some chapters, the conversations referring to specific musical moments can get pretty technical; it would be great if the book had a companion CD.
Their artistic vantage points make for some of the book’s most intriguing passages, including Murakami’s assertion that 'you can’t write well if you don’t have an ear for music' ... However, at more than 300 pages, these transcripts can become rambling. No doubt the two maestros are enjoying themselves, but whether their audience will is less certain.
This premise holds promise...But instead of this project bridging the audiences of Murakami and Ozawa, it’s doubtful the result will satisfy either faction ... For fans of Murakami’s fiction, the book demands a fairly expert grasp on classical music, or at least a level of interest I doubt many of his American readers possess ... That level of detail, on the other hand, should sound like perfection to classical music buffs, and Ozawa fans in particular. But the conversations are dominated by Murakami’s long-winded and sometimes pedantic observations, with a slightly checked-out Ozawa offering quick verbal agreement ... As a reader who wanted to become familiarized with Murakami’s work and as a music fan who wanted to learn more about how to listen to classical music, in the end I was left feeling decidedly empty by Absolutely on Music.