A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84


For my 21st birthday, two of my friends gave me a copy of “1Q84.” At the time, I had a lukewarm relationship with Murakami’s works.The first Murakami I read was “A Wild Sheep Chase”, and Sheepman just absolutely befuddled me. Murakami’s work was the first encounter I’d had with something this strange, without all of the loose ends tied up neatly by the end.  Today, some five years later, I am a self-professed Murakami enthusiast. While I still haven’t read all the books he’s written, I’m going through a few a year. Since I finished my reading goal six months early this year (go me!), I decided to tackle a few of the big books that I’ve always been meaning to get through. One of these big books that I’ve been intimidated of is Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84” — almost a thousand pages of a surreal adventure? How exhausting!

One of my favorite parts of Murakami books is the music that he incorporates. There’s always a piece of classical music that runs throughout the course of each book, for example The Thieving Magpie in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Although much longer, 1Q84 is no different. Janacek’s “Sinfonietta” opens “1Q84” and then reappears throughout the stories. Murakami talks about why he chose “Sinfonietta” in an interview with Sam Anderson:

It is, as the book suggests, truly the worst possible music for a traffic jam: busy, upbeat, dramatic — like five normal songs fighting for supremacy inside an empty paint can. This makes it the perfect theme for the frantic, lumpy, violent adventure of “1Q84.” Shouting over the music, Murakami told me that he chose the “Sinfonietta” precisely for its weirdness. “Just once I heard that music in a concert hall,” he said. “There were 15 trumpeters behind the orchestra. Strange. Very strange. . . . And that weirdness fits very well in this book. I cannot imagine what other kind of music is fitting so well in this story.”

After Murakami has evidently put so much thought into his music selection, it’s only logical to check it out. I’ve put together a playlist inspired by 1Q84, and I’ve got to say, “Sinfonietta” is perfectly weird for a Tokyo with two moons and little people running amok. Interspersed between the different movements of Sinfonietta are other songs that are mentioned in the book.

What are your favorite songs in Murakami books? Are there other authors who use music in a similar way?

I’ve compiled playlists for two other Murakami books — I hope to make playlists for all the other ones one day.

8 thoughts on “A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84

  1. I knew about Murakami’s music but I never thought about such a list…amazingly good idea. Wow! I can’t say what music is my favorite. I know novel wise I really liked KAFKA ON THE SHORE and IQ84 is high on the list as well.

    Oh, since I’ve trying to learn Japanese for the past three years…sigh. I can tell you (and please forgive me for being presumptuous), but Q or the sound “kyu” means 9 in Japanese.

    • Thank you, Paul! I think that after listening to the music mentioned in 1Q84, I discovered a whole new level of meaning and atmosphere in the book, if that makes sense?

      I actually read that about the Q sound meaning 9 in Japanese. I wonder what else is lost in translation in reading his books. Which other Murakamis have you read? I’m trying to decide which one to read next.

      • I’ve got quite a few of his novels but haven’t gotten around to reading them all. To date I’ve read the ones we mentioned and AFTER DARK which I liked quite a bit, very realistic, hard novel, but good. NORWEGIAN WOOD, slow going I remember, but I still couldn’t stop reading. COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI, which I didn’t care for. I think I felt a bit cheated. It didn’t deliver as I thought it would. THE STRANGE LIBRARY, I enjoyed the beginning, but it faded.

        I’ve enjoyed Murakami’s novels, but his endings tend to be weak, almost as if he just wanted to get it done and over with. I really liked IQ84, but the ending, again, I felt as if he just got tired of writing and decided to rush things along.

        How about yourself? How did the ending, say the last fifty pages affect you?

        Oh, if you’re looking for another Murakami novel to read, I’d suggest AFTER DARK. It’s not long, almost a novella, but it’s really quite good, gives an intense glimpse into the darker side of Tokyo.

    • Murakami is someone who has really grown on me over the years. I wish you remembered which one you read first! I haven’t read Tsukuru yet, but I would highly recommend Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart, if you haven’t read those yet.

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