Murakami on the Ego

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami translated by Jay Rubin (2016, Harvill Secker)

The novels of Haruki Murakami are full of music – jazz, rock, classical. It is well known that before turning to writing at the age of 29, he and his wife ran a jazz club in Tokyo. In the recently published Absolutely on Music (@HarvillSecker@AAKnopf) Murakami fulfills a personal dream. He talks to his friend, Seiji Ozawa, world-class conductor of classical music (San Francisco Symphony/the Toronto Symphony/the Boston Symphony) about their shared passion. The transcribed conversations span a period of two years and touch upon everyone from Bach to Bernstein. The book contains illuminating observations on the nature of creativity and the connections between music and literature.

How are these two maestros related in their habits and their temperament? They are Japanese and talented and famous – obvious. But Murakami points out three interesting qualities: he and Ozawa experience the same simple joy in their respective areas of work, they both possess hungry and youthful hearts. Next, they are both “stubborn”.

 

Haruki Murakami’s desk. Look at the wall of vinyl! (Photo: harukimurakami.com)

 

I found this discussion of “stubbornness” extremely important and useful:

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami translated by Jay Rubin (2016, Knopf)

Creative people have to be fundamentally egoistic. This may sound pompous, but it happens to be the truth. People who live their lives watching what goes on around them, trying not to make waves, and looking for the easy compromise, are not going to be able to do creative work, whatever their field. To build something where there was nothing requires deep individual concentration, and in most cases that kind of concentration occurs in a place unrelated to co-operation with others, a place we might even called dämonisch [German for “demonic”.]

Of course, a stubborn artistic individuality doesn’t and shouldn’t mean a complete sundering of intimate relationships – that is a state that inhibits creativity. Creative people must find a realistic place from which to operate. Murakami continues:

Still, letting go one’s ego run wild on the assumption that one is an “artist” will disrupt any kind of social life, which in turn interrupts the “individual concentration” so indispensable for creativity. Baring the ego in the late nineteenth century was one thing, but now, in the twenty-first century it is a far more difficult matter. Creative professionals constantly have to find those realistic points of compromise between themselves and their environment.

 

“To build something where there was nothing requires deep individual concentration, and in most cases that kind of concentration occurs in a place unrelated to co-operation with others…” (Photo: Pixabay)

 

What I am trying to say here is that while Ozawa and I of course have found very different ways to establish those points of compromise, we are likely headed in pretty much the same direction.

 

Here are plain and straight facts that people engaged in creative enterprises (of any kind) should seriously dwell upon.

 

Image Credit:

Featured: Sheet music by User “Brandon Giesbrecht”, CC BY 2.0, Flickr

 


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6 thoughts on “Murakami on the Ego

  1. Amazing and realistic very specially “realistic people have to be fundamentally egoistic. This may sound pompous, but it happens to be the truth”.

    Like

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