A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84

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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.

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A Playlist for Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto – Opera 101

bel canto

Bel Canto bel ˈkäntō,ˈkan-/  (noun): a lyrical style of operatic singing using a full rich broad tone and smooth phrasing.

I recently finished reading Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto at the recommendation of my sister. It’s set in an unnamed country in South America and is about a birthday party gone horribly wrong. As the title suggests, the book revolves around an opera singer, which got me to thinking about how little I know about opera…

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Courtesy of Opera for Dummies

A Brief History of Opera: Opera is Italian for “work” – both the act of labor and the final product. Western Opera started in Italy at the end of the 16th century. The wealthy artists of the Florence Renaissance (known as the Florentine Camerata) were searching for a way to revive and elevate traditional Greek dramas. Their solution was to heighten it by setting it to melodies to enhance the text. Dafne by Jacopo Peri is often referred to as the first acknowledged opera. In the beginning, these operas were commissioned by European royalty as entertainment for their court. However, by the mid 17th century, opera had spread outside of Italy, reaching France and Germany. The idea of “opera season” originated in 1637 and tickets began being sold to the public.

There are many “genres” of opera: most notably, “opera seria” (a more traditional and serious opera, such as Mozart’s Apollo et Hyacinthus) and “opera buffa” (a comedic opera, such as Rossini’s The Barber of Seville). Opera seria were generally about nobility and created for the enjoyment royal court. These operas usually have three acts and leaned towards singers with high voices, favoring sopranos and castrati for the main roles. (Yes, a castrato is a fancy term for a eunuch – yowch!). I’ve included a handy chart of vocal ranges on the left for your reference.

On the other hand, opera buffa was a reaction to opera seria and strove to create an opera that was more accessible to the people. It generally has two acts (compared to seria’s three) and consisted of four voices – a soprano or mezzo, a tenor, a baritone, and a “basso buffo,” the comic relief and a specialist in the “patter” – a fast, rhyming, comedic song.

Many of the composers that we associate with classical music also composed operas – including Mozart, Handel, J.S. Bach, and Beethoven, to name a few. These operas are performed in their original language, and if you go see a live opera, there will be subtitles projected either over the stage or in front of your seat (you can often even pick your own language!)

In honor of this book, I’ve put together a small playlist of what I have been told are great operas and arias to dive into:

Tracklist:

  1. Mimi, La Boheme, Puccini
  2. Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini
  3. Le Nozze di Figaro, Mozart
  4. O Sole Mio, Caruso
  5. Madama Butterfly, Puccini
  6. Israel in Egypt, Handel
  7. Don Giovanni, Mozart
  8. Au Fond Du Temple Saint, Bizet
  9. The Flower Duet, Charlotte Church

Click here to launch Bel Canto – Opera 101: A Playlist

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Additional Resources:

 

A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

starling 1

“When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.”

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The Thieving Magpie follows Toru Okada throughout The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – the perfect music for cooking pasta, stalking hotel bell boys, and traveling to the realm of your subconscious. I just finished reading Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle last night, and it was quite the journey! As to be expected, Murakami created a very lyrical and eerie world that starts with a man searching for a missing cat, which of course leads to many strange and magical things happening.

I had so much fun making a playlist for Kafka on the Shore that I thought I’d make one for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as well. Most of these songs were mentioned by Murakami, but I threw in a few extras of my own choice for good measure. Have you read the book before? What songs would you add to this playlist?

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Please see the tracklist and playlist below:

  1.  Eight Days a Week – The Yesterdays (because Spotify doesn’t have the Beatles)
  2. Billy Jean – The Thrillers (because Spotify doesn’t have Michael Jackson)
  3. Jump – Van Halen
  4. The Hawaiian Wedding Song – Andy Williams
  5. Hat and Beard – Eric Dolphy
  6. The Thieving Magpie – Gioachino Rossini
  7. The Big Ship – Brian Eno
  8. Tara’s Theme – Percy Faith
  9. The Musical Offering – J.S. Bach
  10. Fake Plastic Trees – Radiohead

Click here to launch The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Playlist

Photo Credit: Lomokev @ Flickr

A Reading – Devendra Banhart – 6/25/2015

I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street
This post is a little late, but it’s better late than never, I suppose. Devendra Banhart released an art book recently called “I Left My Noodle on Ramen Street.” He stopped by The Strand on 6/25/15 to chat about art, music, and his new book in a conversation with his friend Adam Green, of The Moldy Peaches fame. The book is a lovely combination of art, essays, photography, and doodles.

rejoicing in the hands

Devendra said that he wanted the book to be purely art, but the publisher wanted a more intimate and personal book. The result is that the book seems almost like an art-journal. As you may know, Devendra draws and designs all of his own album covers. The book is filled with a lot of tiny, meticulous drawings that we have all grown to love and recognize. He said that this book is the kind of music that he would like to create, and flipping through the book, it’s fascinating to see into how Devendra’s mind works and how intricately connected music and art are to him.

Sphinx Devendra talked about his attempts to get an art show in a gallery and how he was rejected by all the art galleries. The frustration of this led to a series of drawings that are referred to as Sphinxes. These are permutations of different things filling up an empty space, his art-gallery surrogate. It is little stories and details like this that really help you understand what you’re looking at. Hearing him speak added another dimension of understanding to his art, music, and this book. It was really lovely and magical to be able to attend the reading.

self-portrait banhart

I would really only recommend this book to Devendra-devotees; if you are a fan of his music and music videos, you are going to love this book. There is so much to look at and to learn! If you think Devendra is a weird and radical hippie, then you will probably find this book a waste of money and time. I’ve put together a little playlist for you to listen to while flipping through the book, doodling on your own, or just to lay on the rug and listen to with your eyes closed. Enjoy!

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Additional Resources:

A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

Kafka

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

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Anyone that has read a book or interview by Haruki Murakami knows how important music is to his voice and his writing. Kafka on the Shore is no different. Kafka on the Shore follows the lives of two people: Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata. Kafka is running away from home to escape an Oedipal-esque prophecy that his father predicts of him. Mr. Nakata can talk to cats, so  he is hired to search for a missing cat named Goma and ends up on a crazy journey. Both characters embark on long journeys with little idea of where they are going; instead, a lot of things happen to both, as passive actors in their own lives.

At one of the most climactic scenes (don’t worry, I won’t spoil the book for you), Kafka Tamura is listening to the final movement of his favorite symphony, and Murakami makes sure to describe the music as well as the story. You can almost hear the frenzied rise of the instruments with Kafka! Music equally affects the other characters of the book – Kafka and his friend Oshima have long discussions about music and meaning, while Hoshino becomes transformed through music.

I think in order to fully appreciate the novel, you have to understand Murakami’s writing philosophy. In an interview with the Paris Review, he says:

“You’ve read Raymond Chandler, of course. His books don’t really offer conclusions. He might say, He is the killer, but it doesn’t matter to me who did it. There was a very interesting episode when Howard Hawks made a picture of The Big Sleep. Hawks couldn’t understand who killed the chauffeur, so he called Chandler and asked, and Chandler answered, I don’t care! Same for me. Conclusion means nothing at all.”

Like listening to music, reading Kafka on the Shore is about the journey; it is the only thing that matters, the destination is a necessary consequence of traveling. Once I was able to comprehend this, I was able to let go a little and fully inhabit the world that Murakami has created.

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Music is so prevalent here and acts as a guidepost through the book, telling you how far you’ve journeyed, so I created a playlist to listen to while reading Kafka on the Shore. Half of these songs were actually mentioned in the book, while the rest just seemed to fit the tone of the book. Please see the tracklist and link to the playlist below:

  1. Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Major, Schubert
  2. Crossroads, Cream
  3. Little Red Corvette, Prince
  4. In a Sentimental Mood, Duke Ellington
  5. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay, Otis Redding
  6. As Time Goes By, Eddie Haywood
  7. Visions of Johanna, Bob Dylan
  8. Dunes, Alabama Shakes
  9. Kid A, Radiohead
  10. The Bitter End, Placebo

Click here to launch Kafka on the Shore: A Playlist