”Whether in music or in fiction, the most basic thing is rhythm. Your style needs to have good, natural, steady rhythm, or people won’t keep reading your work. I learned the importance of rhythm from music…from jazz” – Haruki Murakami
Even though we associate reading with visuals, music can be used within fiction in order to create an atmosphere. This is something that I love about Murakami books as music is a key element within his stories and characters. Many of Murakami’s characters are lovers of classical music and jazz which isn’t surprising considering he owned a jazz club with his wife.
Furthermore, I love how when a certain situation arises Murakami uses music in order to give you a sense of things. For example the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle begins with the character of Toru cooking pasta whilst listening to Rossini’s La gazza ladra (“The Thieving Magpie”) overture. I couldn’t help but quickly put my book down and continue reading while listening to it myself, by doing so I felt I gained a better understanding of the moment. He does the same thing in 1Q84 when the character female character Aomame is in a taxi and Janáček’s Sinfonietta is playing over the radio. She is bewildered as this is possibly the worst music to listen to during a traffic jam due to how dramatic it is. However, moving forward in the story this piece of music becomes part of the chaotic adventure that is 1Q84 for both characters within the novel.
“How Many people could recognize Janáčeks Sinconietta after hearing a few bars? Probably somewhere between ‘very few’ and ‘almost bone’. But for some reason, Aomame was one of the few who could.”
Moreover, music is not only part of Murakami’s stories but is also part of him. I found out that Murkami himself practiced playing the piano but never excelled enough. This is something he references in his books in terms of a characters ability or lack of ability to play instruments. An example of this is when the unnamed protagonist in a Wild Sheep Chase is talking with the mysterious “Sheep Man”
Sheep Man – Youwereplayingguitar,’ said the Sheep Man with interest. ‘Welikemusictoo.Can’tplayanyinstrumentsthough.’
Protagonist- ‘Neither can I. Haven’t played in close to ten years.’
In addition to this, Murakami’s ability to transport you to a specific place or era is mind blowing. A prime example is Norwegian Wood which opens with the main character of Toru Watanabe recounting memories of his university years, which is provoked by the orchestral version of The Beatles 1965 song “Norwegian Wood”. Throughout the book Murakami makes references to a lot of western pop songs. This is in turn allows you to be transported to that era, even though you might be unfamiliar with it
Thus, the music that Murakami mentions isn’t just there for the hell of it. It’s there to make you feel what words can not. Music can be used to show the emotions a character is going through. Using an example again from the Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami uses Tchaikovsky’s “Sernade for Strings” in order to get across what the character of Toru is feeling after his wife leaves him. What it does is give you a feel of a sense of Toru’s emotions there and then. There are 4 movements within this piece of music and each sets the stage for how Toru is feeling I.e. melancholy, sudden moments of torment, a feeling of loss and finally back to a feeling of melancholy in order to emphasize Toru feels that everything will be ok .
Therefore, if implemented correctly music can be used to create an atmosphere which words can not. The way Murakami does this in my opinion is pure genius as he always uses the right music for the right moment.