A 3,350-Song Playlist of Music from Haruki Murakami’s Personal Record Collection

Music and writ­ing are insep­a­ra­ble in the hippest mod­ern nov­els, from Ker­ouac to Nick Horn­by to Irvine Welsh. It might even be said many such books would not exist with­out their inter­nal sound­tracks. When it comes to hip, pro­lif­ic mod­ern nov­el­ist Haru­ki Muraka­mi, we might say the author him­self may not exist with­out his sound­tracks, and they are sprawl­ing and exten­sive. Muraka­mi, who is well known for his intense focus and hero­ic achieve­ments as a marathon and dou­ble-marathon run­ner, exceeds even this con­sum­ing pas­sion with his near-reli­gious devo­tion to music.

Muraka­mi became a con­vert to jazz fan­dom at the age of 15 and until age 30 ran a jazz club. Then he sud­den­ly became a nov­el­ist after an epiphany at a base­ball game. (Hear Ilana Simons read his ver­sion of that sto­ry in her short ani­mat­ed film above). His first book’s sto­ry unfold­ed in an envi­ron­ment total­ly per­me­at­ed by music and music fan cul­ture. From then on, musi­cal ref­er­ences spilled from his char­ac­ters’ lips, and swirled around their heads per­pet­u­al­ly.

What sets Muraka­mi apart from oth­er music-obsessed nov­el­ists is not only the degree of his obses­sion, but the breadth of his musi­cal knowl­edge. He is as flu­ent in clas­si­cal as he as in jazz and six­ties folk and pop, and his range in each genre is con­sid­er­able. He has so much to say about clas­si­cal music, in fact, that he once pub­lished a book of six con­ver­sa­tions between him­self and Sei­ji Oza­wa, “one of the world’s lead­ing orches­tral con­duc­tors.”  Murakami’s 2013 Col­or­less Tsuku­ru Taza­ki and His Years of Pil­grim­age—its title a ref­er­ence to Franz Liszt—contains per­haps his most elo­quent state­ment on the role music plays in his life and work, phrased in uni­ver­sal terms:

Our lives are like a com­plex musi­cal score. Filled with all sorts of cryp­tic writ­ing, six­teenth and thir­ty-sec­ond notes and oth­er strange signs. It’s next to impos­si­ble to cor­rect­ly inter­pret these, and even if you could, and could then trans­pose them into the cor­rect sounds, there’s no guar­an­tee that peo­ple would cor­rect­ly under­stand, or appre­ci­ate, the mean­ing there­in.

“At times,” writes Scott Mes­low at The Week, “read­ing Murakami’s work can feel like flip­ping through his leg­en­dar­i­ly expan­sive record col­lec­tion.” While we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured playlists drawn from Murakami’s jazz obses­sion and from the gen­er­al vari­ety of his dis­crim­i­nat­ing (yet thor­ough­ly West­ern) musi­cal palate, these have been minus­cule by com­par­i­son with his per­son­al library of LPs, an “inspi­ra­tional… wall of 10,000 records,” the major­i­ty of which are jazz. Muraka­mi admits he always lis­tens to music when he works, and you can see part of his floor-to-ceil­ing record library, and huge speak­er sys­tem, in a pho­to of his desk on his attrac­tive­ly-designed web­site. Down below, we bring you one of the next best things to actu­al­ly sit­ting in his study, a playlist of 3,350 tracks from Murakami’s per­son­al col­lec­tion. (If you need Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, down­load it here.)

Hoagy Carmichael, Lionel Hamp­ton, Her­bie Han­cock, Gene Kru­pa, Djan­go Rein­hardt, Sergei Prokofiev, Fred­er­ic Chopin… it’s quite a mix, and one that may not only remind you of sev­er­al moments in Murakami’s body of work, but will also give you a sam­pling of the sound­track to its author’s imag­i­na­tion as he tran­scribes the “cryp­tic writ­ing” we have to “trans­pose… into the cor­rect sounds” as we try to make sense of it.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A 96-Song Playlist of Music in Haru­ki Murakami’s Nov­els: Miles Davis, Glenn Gould, the Beach Boys & More

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

A Dream­i­ly Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Haru­ki Muraka­mi, Japan’s Jazz and Base­ball-Lov­ing Post­mod­ern Nov­el­ist

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (7) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (7)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.