Haruki Murakami Jazz Mixes: Hear Playlists of Jazz Pieces Namechecked in Norwegian Wood and 1Q84

Haru­ki Muraka­mi has long since bro­ken with the tra­di­tion­al mod­el of the nov­el­ist, not least in that his books have their own sound­tracks. You can’t go out and buy the accom­pa­ny­ing album for a Muraka­mi nov­el as you would for a movie, grant­ed, but today you can even more eas­i­ly find online playlists of the music men­tioned in them. A die-hard music lover, Muraka­mi, has been name-check­ing not just musi­cians but spe­cif­ic songs in his work ever since his first nov­el, 1979’s Hear the Wind Sing. Eigh­teen years lat­er, he titled a whole book after a Bea­t­les num­ber; the tale of yearn­ing and dis­af­fec­tion in 1960s Tokyo that is Nor­we­gian Wood would become his break­out best­seller around the world.

When Nor­we­gian Wood first came out in Korea, where I live, it did so as The Age of Loss (상실의 시대). That title is still ref­er­enced in the video above, an hour­long mix of songs from the nov­el post­ed by the Kore­an Youtube chan­nel Jazz Is Every­where. (This does­n’t sur­prise me: here–where Murakami’s many avid fans in Korea refer to him sim­ply as “Haru­ki”–more of his work has been trans­lat­ed into Kore­an than ever will be into Eng­lish.)

Selec­tions include the Bill Evans Tri­o’s “Waltz for Deb­by,” Anto­nio Car­los Jobim’s “Desa­fi­na­do,” Thelo­nious Monk’s “Hon­ey­suck­le Rose,” and Miles Davis’ “So What.” More recent­ly, Jazz Is Every­where put up a mix of songs from Murakami’s 2011 nov­el 1Q84, fea­tur­ing the likes of Nat King Cole, Louis Arm­strong, Bil­lie Hol­i­day, and Duke Elling­ton.

These mix­es focus on jazz, one of Murakami’s most beloved gen­res; as is well known, he even ran his own jazz bar in Tokyo before turn­ing nov­el­ist. (Its name, Peter Cat, now adorns a book café here in Seoul.) But the 1Q84 mix ends with Leoš Janáček’s decid­ed­ly un-jazzy Sin­foni­et­ta, a some­what jar­ring orches­tral piece that became an unlike­ly hit in Japan soon after 1Q84’s pub­li­ca­tion. This only hints at the vari­ety of West­ern music of which Muraka­mi has made lit­er­ary use, much as he has trans­posed the tech­niques of the West­ern nov­el (a trans­la­tor from Eng­lish in his spare time, he has also pro­duced a Japan­ese ver­sion of The Great Gats­by) into his native lan­guage. An eclec­tic, impro­vi­sa­tion­al, and often under­stat­ed style of sto­ry­telling has result­ed — which, much like jazz, has proven to know no cul­tur­al bound­aries.

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 26-Hour Playlist Fea­tur­ing Music from Haru­ki Murakami’s Lat­est Nov­el, Killing Com­menda­tore

Haru­ki Muraka­mi Day: Stream Sev­en Hours of Mix­es Col­lect­ing All the Jazz, Clas­si­cal & Clas­sic Amer­i­can Pop Music from His Nov­els

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

Son­ic Explo­rations of Japan­ese Jazz: Stream 8 Mix­es of Japan’s Jazz Tra­di­tion Free Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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Comments (2)
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  • Ruth Forman Gardner says:

    My favorite writer and my favorite music. Thank you so much Open Cul­ture for all the plea­sure you give your read­ers!!

  • Larry says:

    Cer­tain­ly a fas­ci­nat­ing writer, with good taste in music.

    Regard­ing the throw­away ref­er­ence to Janacek being ‘jar­ring’; let no one be put off lis­ten­ing to this bril­liant com­pos­er, the Sin­foni­et­ta espe­cial­ly. It’s actu­al­ly quite a famous piece that many will recog­nise.

    Anoth­er valu­able area of cul­ture- let us keep it open!

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