Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
This story — originally published on August 26, 2014 — has been updated to include songs referenced in Murakami's first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, which were recently published in the United States for the first time in a dual volume titled Wind/Pinball. Both the excerpts and the playlist have been updated accordingly.
In 2014, Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, was published in the United States. Its title is a reference to Franz Liszt's "Years of Pilgrimage" suite, which plays a central role in the novel's narrative. The pointed reference isn't exactly a major detour from Murakami. His favorite tropes are so omnipresent that a fan recently put together a Bingo card collecting them: "Speaking to Cats," "Parallel Worlds," "Weird Sex," and — of course — "Old Jazz Record."
At times, reading Murakami's work can feel like flipping through his legendarily expansive record collection. (In a 2011 New York Times article, Murakami estimated that he owns 10,000 records, but says he was afraid to count.) Almost without exception, Murakami's musical references are confined to one of three genres: classical, jazz, and American pop. Many of his novels, including Norwegian Wood, Dance Dance Dance, and South of the Border, West of the Sun — derive their titles from songs, and his characters constantly reflect on the music they hear. If anything, Murakami's reliance on music has become more pronounced over the years; his two most recent novels hinge on songs that literally have the power to change the world.
Perhaps the strangest side effect of Murakami's enormous popularity is his ability to single-handedly drive musical trends. Following the Japanese release of 1Q84, Leoš Janáček's "Sinfonietta"— which plays a prominent role in the narrative — sold as many copies in one week as it had sold over the previous 20 years. Recognizing this power, Vintage Books promoted his latest novel by incorporating the Liszt composition into a book trailer:
How has Murakami's use of music changed and evolved over the course of the past few decades? What follows is a catalog of Murakami's most significant musical references, for fans to analyze and enjoy. Each link within an excerpt will take you to an individual song; a collected playlist is available below.
The music of Haruki Murakami, as excerpted from his books
Hear the Wind Sing (1979, 2015)
"Okay, our first song of the evening. This one you can just sit back and enjoy. A great little number, and the best way to beat the heat. Brook Benton's 'Rainy Night in Georgia.'" (34)
"My friend, it just so happens... hic... a young lady has asked us to dedicate a song to you. Can you guess who she is?"
"She has requested that blast from the past, 'California Girls,' by the Beach Boys. Ring a bell?"
I thought for a moment, but nothing popped into my head. (37)
With my hands still in my pocket, I scanned the store. "I'd also like Beethoven's Piano Concerto number 3.
This time she came back carrying two records. "We've got Glenn Gould and Backhaus. Which do you want?"
She put one record on the counter and returned the other to the shelf. "Anything else?"
"The Miles Davis album that has 'A Gal in Calico.' (40-41)
We had gone to see an Elvis Presley movie. The lyrics of the theme song went like this:
"We had a quarrel, a lovers' spat,
I write I'm sorry but the letters keep comin' back
She wrote upon it:
Return to Sender, Address Unknown
No Such Number, No Such Zone" (59-60)
Back we went to the bar for more beer and more Jim Beam. We sat there in silence, listening to one song after another on the jukebox: 'Everyday People,' 'Woodstock,' 'Spirit in the Sky,' 'Hey There Lonely Girl.' (61)
"I love all you kids out there! If you remember anything about this program in ten years — the songs I played for you, or even yours truly — then please remember that.
So here's her request. Elvis Presley's 'Good Luck Charm.' When this song is over, I'll go back for the next one hour and fifty minutes being your canine stand-up comedian, as always. Thanks for tuning in." (95)
Pinball, 1973 (1980, 2015)
It was thus to the distant accompaniment of the distant strains of Haydn's Piano Sonata in G Minor that I picked my way under and through the tottering pile of benches that served as a barricade for Building Nine. (107)
Naoko had moved to the area when she was twelve. That was 1961, by the Western calendar. The year Ricky Nelson sang "Hello Mary Lou." [...] The house had been designed by an old man, an oil painter who had lived there until his lungs gave out the winter before Naoko moved in. That was 1960, the year Bobby Vee sang "Rubber Ball." (113-114)
After about an hour of backgammon, we scaled the chain-link fence and walked the deserted course in the twilight. I whistled the tune to Mildred Bailey's "It's So Peaceful in the Country" twice. The twins said they liked the song a lot. But we didn't find a single golf ball. (141)
Outside the window, a silent rain fell on the golf course. I had just finished my beer and Hans-Martin Linde had just played the last note of the Sonata in F Major when dinner was ready. We had little to say to each other during the meal, which was rare for us. Wth no record playing, the only sounds were those of rain on eaves and three people chewing meat. (160)
Cigarette between his lips, the Rat grunted, impressed. The jukebox clicked, and Wayne Newton gave way to 'MacArthur Park.' (170)
A Wild Sheep Chase (1982, 1989)
She cleared away the beer cans and put the kettle on. Then while waiting for the water to boil, she listened to a cassette in the other room. Johnny Rivers singing "Midnight Special" followed by "Roll Over Beethoven." Then "Secret Agent Man." When the kettle whistled, she made the coffee, singing along with "Johnny B. Goode." The whole while I read the evening paper. A charming domestic scene. If not for the matter of the sheep, I might have been very happy. (158)
At my neighborhood dive bar, I drank a beer while listening to the latest Brothers Johnson record. I ate my chicken cutlet while listening to a Bill Withers record. I had some coffee while listening to Maynard Ferguson's "Star Wars." After all that, I felt as if I'd hardly eaten anything. (171-172)
When the stew was ready, I moved to the living-room table and ate dinner listening to the Percy Faith Orchestra play 'Perfidia.' After dinner, I drank the coffee left in the pot, and with a deck of cards that was sitting on the table I dealt myself a hand of solitaire. (287)
"Heardanythingaboutthewar?" asks the Sheep Man. The Benny Goodman Orchestra strikes up "Air Mail Special." Charlie Christian takes a long solo. He is wearing a soft cream-colored hat. (341)
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985, 1991)
"Say, isn't that Bob Dylan you have on?"
"Right," I said. Positively Fourth Street.
"I can tell Bob Dylan in an instant," she said.
"Because his harmonica's worse than Stevie Wonder?"
She laughed again. Nice to know I could still make someone laugh.
"No, I really like his voice," she said. "It's like a kid standing at the window watching the rain."
After all the volumes that have been written about Dylan, I had yet to come across such a perfect description. (345)
She rolled down her panty hose as a bluesy Ray Charles came on with "Georgia on My Mind." I closed my eyes, put both feet up on the table and swizzled the minutes around in my head like the ice in a drink. Everything, everything, seemed once-upon-a-time. (364)
The autumn sky was as clear as if it had been made that very morning. Perfect Duke Ellington weather. Though, of course, Duke Ellington would be right even for New Year's Eve at an Antarctic base. I drove along, listening to Lawrence Brown's trombone solo on "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me," followed by Johnny Hodges on "Sophisticated Lady." (387)
The Elephant Vanishes (collected short stories, English pub. 1993)
I'm in the kitchen cooking spaghetti when the woman calls. Another moment until the spaghetti is done; there I am, whistling the prelude to Rossini's La Gazza Ladra along with the radio. Perfect spaghetti-cooking music. ("The Wind-Up Bird and Tuesday's Woman," 4)
The baker was a classical music freak, and when we got there, he was listening to an album of Wagner overtures. So he made us a deal. If we would listen to the record all the way through, we could take as much bread as we liked. I talked it over with my buddy and we figured, Okay. It wouldn't be work in the purest sense of the word, and it wouldn't hurt anybody. So I put our knife back in the bag, pulled up a couple of chairs, and listened to the overtures to Tannhauser and The Flying Dutchman. ("The Second Bakery Attack," 40)
The conversation happened before Christmas. One morning after New Year's my mother called me at nine o'clock. I was brushing my teeth to Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." She asked if I knew the man my sister was seeing. I said I didn't. ("Family Affair," 167)
The dwarf went to the middle of the clearing and began to dance again. I put a record on. It was an old Frank Sinatra record. The dwarf danced, singing "Night and Day" along with Sinatra. I pictured him dancing before the throne. ("The Dancing Dwarf," 244)
Sometimes, though, fourteen or fifteen years doesn't seem so long ago. I'll think, that's when Jim Morrison was singing "Light My Fire," or Paul McCartney "The Long and Winding Road" — maybe I'm scrambling my years a bit, but anyway, about that time — it somehow never quite hits that it was all that long ago. I mean, I don't think I myself have changed so much since those days. ("The Last Lawn of the Afternoon," 268)
Cicadas were droning overhead. I turned on the radio and poked around the dial for a decent disc jockey. I stopped when I came to a radio station playing Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me Not to Come," lay down on my back, and just looked up through my shades at the sun filtering between the branches. ("The Last Lawn of the Afternoon," 279)
Norwegian Wood (1987, 2000)
Once the plane was on the ground, soft music began to flow from the ceiling speakers: a sweet orchestral cover version of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." The melody never failed to send a shudder through me, but this time it hit me harder than ever. (3)
Her milk was on the house if she would play the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," said the girl. Reiko gave her a thumbs-up and launched into the song. Hers was not a full voice, and too much smoking had given it a husky edge, but it was lovely, with real presence. I almost felt as if the sun really were coming up again as I sat there listening and drinking beer and looking at the mountains. (139-140).
A girl with pale pink lipstick who couldn't have been more than junior-high-school age came in and asked me to play the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash." When I found the disk and put it on for her, she started snapping her fingers to the rhythm and shaking her hips as she danced around the shop. Then she asked me for a cigarette. I gave her one of the manager's, which she smoked with obvious pleasure, and when the record ended she left the shop without so much as a "thank you." (165)
Dance Dance Dance (1988, 1994)
Once the hole was filled in, I tossed the shovel into the trunk of the car, and got back on the highway. I turned the radio on as I drove home to Tokyo. Which is when the DJ had to put on Ray Charles moaning about being born to lose… and now I'm losing you. I felt like crying. Sometimes one little thing will do the trick. (10)
So I made tracks to the hotel barbershop, hoping that it'd be crowded and that I'd have to wait my turn. But of course the place was empty, and I was in the chair immediately. An abstract painting hung on the blue-gray walls, and Jacques Rouchet's Play Bach lilted soft and mellow from hidden speakers. This was not like any barbershop I'd been to – you could hardly call it a barbershop. The next thing you know, they'll be playing Gregorian Chants in bathhouses, Ryuichi Sakamoto in tax office waiting rooms. (35)
I thought about when I was her age. I used to collect pop records myself. Singles. Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack," Ricky Nelson's "Travelin' Man," Brenda Lee's "All Alone Am I." I owned maybe a hundred 45s. I used to listen to them day in and day out. I knew all the lyrics by heart. The things kids can memorize. Always the most meaningless, idiotic lines. Stuff about a China doll down in old Hong Kong, waiting for my return… Not quite Talking Heads. But okay, the times they are a-changin'. (109)
No sooner had I punched the PLAY button than Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" came on. Don't know much about history... Sam the Man, killed when I was in ninth grade. Then it was "Oh Boy," by Buddy Holly, another dead man. Airplane crash. Bobby Darin, "Beyond the Sea." He was gone, too. Elvis "Hound Dog" Presley. A drugged stiff. Everyone dead and gone except maybe Chuck Berry with his "Sweet Little Sixteen." And me, singing along. (112)
At home, there were no messages on my answering machine. No one had called. I put away the vegetables to the "Theme from Shaft" on the radio. Who's that man? Shaft! Right on! (129)
I cleaned the refrigerator, the stove, the fan, the floors, the windows. I bagged the garbage. I changed the sheets. I ran the vacuum cleaner. I was wiping the blinds, singing along to Styx's "Mr. Roboto," when the phone rang at two.
A dance band was playing "Frenesi." An elderly clarinetist took a long solo, reminiscent of Artie Shaw, while a dozen retired couples in silks and satins dance around the pool, faces illuminated by the rippling blue light below. A hallucinatory vision. After how many years, these people had finally made it to Hawaii. They glided gracefully, their steps learned and true. The men moved with their backs straight, chins tucked in, the women in their evening dresses swirling, drawing cheek-to-cheek as the band played "Moon Glow." (256)
South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992, 2000)
Of all her father's records, the one I liked best was a recording of the Liszt piano concertos: one concerto on each side. There were two reasons I liked this record. First of all, the record jacket was beautiful. Second, no one around me — with the exception of Shimamoto, of course — ever listened to Liszt's piano concertos. The very idea excited me. I'd found a world that no one around me knew — a secret garden only I was allowed to enter. I felt elevated, lifted to another plane of existence. (10-11)
Off in the distance, Nat King Cole was singing "South of the Border." The song was about Mexico, but at the time I had no idea. The words "south of the border" had a strangely appealing ring to them. I was convinced something utterly wonderful lay south of the border. When I opened my eyes, Shimamoto was moving her fingers along her skirt. Somewhere deep inside my body I felt an exquisitely sweet ache. (15)
Our generation was the first to yell out a resounding "No!" to the logic of late capitalism, which had devoured any postwar ideals. It was like the outbreak of a fever just as the country stood at a crucial turning point. And here I was, myself swallowed up by the very same capitalist logic, savoring Schubert's Winterreise as I lounged in my BMW, waiting for the signal to change at an intersection in ritzy Aoyama. (72)
The piano trio finished an original blues number and began the intro to "Star-Crossed Lovers." When I was in the bar, the pianist would often strike up that ballad, knowing that it was a favorite of mine. It wasn't one of Ellington's best-known tunes, and I had no particular memories associated with it; just happened to hear it once, and it struck some chord with me. From college to those bleak textbook-company years, come evening I'd listen to the Such Sweet Lovers album, the "Star-Crossed Lovers" track over and over. (95)
The woman was stunning. She couldn't have been much more than twenty-five. Her car stereo was playing the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House." In the backseat were two paper shopping bags from Kinokuniya. She had a beautiful smile. (139)
"It's the tune itself you don't want to hear anymore?"
"You could say that," I replied.
"Sounds a little like Casablanca to me!" he said.
"Guess so," I said.
After that, sometimes when he catches sight of me, the pianist breaks into a few bars of "As Time Goes By." (205)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1995, 1997)
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. (1)
After doing the breakfast dishes, I rode my bike to the cleaner's by the station. The owner — a thin man in his late forties, with deep wrinkles on his forehead — was listening to a tape of the Percy Faith orchestra on a boom box that had been set on a shelf. It was a large JVC, with some kind of extra woofers attached and a mound of cassette tapes standing by. The orchestra was performing "Tara's Theme," making the most of its lush string section. (56)
The owner of the shop had his JVC boom box turned up loud, as he had on my last trip. This morning it was an Andy Williams tape. "Hawaiian Wedding Song" was ending just as I walked in, and "Canadian Sunset" started. Whistling happily to the tune, the owner was writing in a notebook with a ballpoint pen, his movements as energetic as before. In the pile of tapes on the shelf, I spotted such names as Sergio Mendes, Bert Kaempfert, and 101 Strings. So he was an easy-listenin' freak. It suddenly occurred to me that true believers in hard-driving jazz — Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor — could never become owners of cleaning shops in malls across from railroad stations. Or maybe they could. They just wouldn't be happy cleaners. (81-82).
When Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings ended, a little piano piece came on that sounded like something by Schumann. It was familiar, but I couldn't recall the title. When it was over, the female announcer sad it had been the seventh of Schumann's Forest Scenes, titled "Bird as Prophet." I imagined Kumiko twisting her hips beneath the other man, raising her legs, planting her fingernails in his back, drooling on the sheets. The announcer explained that Schumann had created a scene of fantasy in which a mysterious bird lived the forest, foretelling the future. (278)
"It's kind of like The Magic Flute. You know: Mozart. Using a magic flute and magic bells, they have to save a princess who's being held captive in a faraway castle. I love that opera. I don't know how many times I've seen it. I know the lines by heart: 'I'm the birdcatcher, Papageno, known throughout the land." (406)
I could feel a certain warmth in the mark on my cheek. It told me that I was drawing a little closer to the core of things. I closed my eyes. Still echoing in my ear were the strains of music that Cinnamon had been listening to repeatedly as he worked that morning. It was Bach's "Musical Offering," still there in my head like the lingering murmur of a crowd in an auditorium. Eventually, though, silence descended and began to burrow its way into the folds of my brain, one after another, like an insect laying eggs. (455)
Sputnik Sweetheart (1999, 2001)
According to her father, her mother had chosen the name Sumire. She loved the Mozart song of the same name and had decided long before that if she had a daughter that would be her name. On a shelf in their living room was a record of Mozart's songs, doubtless the one her mother had listened to, and when she was a child, Sumire would carefully lay this heavy LP on the turntable and listen to it over and over. (18)
She and Miu shared similar musical tastes, it turned out. They both loved piano music and were convinced that Beethoven's Sonata No. 23 was the absolute pinnacle in the history of music. And that Wilhelm Backhaus's unparalleled performance of the "Sonata for Decca" set the interpretive standard. (20)
I folded my hands behind my head and watched Sumire as she slowly yet eagerly devoured her cake. From the small speakers on the ceiling of the coffee shop, Astrud Gilberto sang an old bossa nova song. "Take Me to Aruanada," she sang. I closed my eyes, and the clatter of cups and saucers sounded like the roar of a far-off sea. Aruanda – what's it like there? I wondered. (31)
"Whether you're a good-for-nothing lesbian doesn't matter. Imagine The Greatest Hits of Bobby Darin minus 'Mack the Knife.' That's what my life would be like without you." (65)
After the Quake (2000, 2002)
The World Thyroid Conference was a four-day event at the Bangkok Marriott. Actually, it was more like a worldwide family reunion than a conference. All the participants were thyroid specialists, and they all knew each other or were quickly introduced. It was a small world. There would be lectures and panel discussions during the day and private parties at night. Friends would get together to renew old ties, drink Australian wine, share thyroid stories, update each other on their careers, tell dirty doctor jokes, and sing "Surfer Girl" at karaoke bars. (71)
The plane reached cruising altitude and the Fasten Seat Belt sign went out. So, thought Satsuki, I'm going back to Japan. She tried to think about what lay ahead, but soon gave up. "Words turn into stone," Nimit had told her. She settled deep into her seat and closed her eyes. All at once the image came to her of the sky she had seen while swimming on her back. And Errol Garner's "I'll Remember April." Let me sleep, she thought. Just let me sleep. And wait for the dream to come. (90)
Kafka on the Shore (2002, 2005)
The Siamese was a female, just approaching middle age. She proudly held her tail up straight, and had a collar with a name tag. She had pleasant features and was slim, with not an ounce of extra fat. "Please call me Mimi. The Mimi from La Boheme. There's a song about it, too: 'Si, Mi Chiamano Mimi." (73)
"Playing Schubert's piano sonatas well is one of the hardest things in the world. Especially this, the "Sonata in D Major." It's a tough piece to master. Some pianists can play one or maybe two of the movements perfectly, but if you listen to all four movements as a unified whole, no one has ever nailed it. A lot of famous pianists have tried to rise to the challenge, but it's like there's always something missing. There's never one where you can say, Yes! He's got it! Do you know why?"
"No," I reply.
"Because the sonata itself is imperfect. Robert Schumann understood Schubert's sonatas well, and he labeled this one 'Heavenly Tedious.'" (102)
I go sit on the porch, gaze at the woods, and listen to Cream and Duke Ellington on my Walkman, songs I recorded off a library's collection of CDs. I play "Crossroads" a couple times. Music helps calm me down, but I can't listen for very long. (134)
I lie down on my bed and listen to Prince on my headphones, concentrating on this strangely unceasing music. The batteries ran out in the middle of "Little Red Corvette," the music disappearing like it's been swallowed up by quicksand. I yank off my headphones and listen. Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear. (138)
When the Haydn concerto was over Hoshino asked him to play the Rubinstein-Heifetz-Feuermann version of the Archduke Trio again. While listening to this, he again was lost in thought. Damn it, I don't care what happens, he finally decided. I'm going to follow Mr. Nakata as long as I live. (329)
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (collected short stories, English pub. 2006)
The band began playing "Auld Lang Syne."
"Eleven fifty-five," she said, glancing at the gold watch on her pendant. "I really like 'Auld Lang Syne.' How about you?"
"I prefer 'Home on the Range.' All those deer and antelope." ("New York Mining Disaster," 44).
"Strictly speaking — wait a second — strictly speaking, my last round of vomiting occurred on July 14 at nine thirty in the morning when I brought up my toast, tomato salad, and milk. The last phone call came at ten twenty-five p.m. that night when I was listening to Erroll Garner's Concert by the Sea and drinking Seagram's VO. Handy, isn't it, keeping a diary like this?" ("Nausea 1979," 160).
During the winter I had a part-time job at a small record store in Shinjuku. For Christmas I gave her a Henry Mancini record that had one of her favorites on it, the tune "Dear Heart." I wrapped it in paper with a Christmas tree design, and added a pink ribbon. She gave me a pair of woolen mittens she'd knitted. The part for the thumb was a little too short, but they were warm all the same. ("Firefly," 240).
I wanted something to remember his performance by. If things ended like this, all I'd take home would be lukewarm memories. Or maybe no memories at all. And I may never have a chance to see Tommy Flanagan play live again. (In fact I never did.) Suddenly a thought struck me: what if I were given a chance to request two songs by him right now — which ones would I choose? I mulled it over for a while before picking "Barbados" and "Star-Crossed Lovers." ("Chance Traveler," 251)
Sachi sometimes played in Hanalei, too. One restaurant had a baby grand that was played on weekends by a string bean of a pianist in his midfifties. He would perform mostly harmless little tunes such as "Bali Hai" and "Blue Hawaii." He was nothing special as a pianist, but his warm personality came through in his playing. ("Hanalei Bay," 282)
After Dark (2004, 2007)
"When I was in middle school, I happened to buy a jazz record called Blues-ette at a used record store. An old LP. I can't remember why I bought it at the time. I had never heard any jazz before. But anyway, the first tune on side A was 'Five Spot After Dark', and it was great. A guy named Curtis Fuller played the trombone on it. The first time I heard it, I felt the scales fall from my eyes. That's it, I thought. That's the instrument for me. The trombone and me: it was a meeting arranged by destiny." (20)
He presses a button and the needle descends to the record. Faint scratching. Then Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" begins to play. Harry Carney's bass clarinet languorous bass clarinet performs solo. The bartender's unhurried movements give the place its own special time flow. (60)
Mari is no longer here. Neither is anyone else. Music continues to play from the ceiling speaker. A Hall and Oates song now: "I Can't Go For That." A closer look reveals that Mari's image is still reflected in the mirror over the sink. The Mari in the mirror is looking from her side into this side. Her somber gaze seems to be expecting some kind of occurrence. But there is no one on this side. Only her image is left in the Skylark's restroom mirror. The room begins to darken. In the deepening darkness, "I Can't Go For That" continues to play. (63)
1Q84 (2009, 2011)
The taxi's radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast. Janacek's Sinfonietta — probably not the ideal music to hear in a taxi caught in traffic. The middle-aged driver didn't seem to be listening very closely, either. With his mouth clamped shut, he stared straight ahead at the endless line of cars stretching out on the elevated expressway, like a veteran fisherman standing in the bow of his boat, reading the ominous confluence of two currents. Aomame settled into the broad back seat, closed her eyes, and listened to the music. (3)
People stared at her in silence as she removed her shoes and coat. From the open window of the black Toyota Celica parked next to the turnout, Michael Jackson's high-pitched voice provided her with background music. "Billie Jean" was playing. She felt as if she were performing a striptease. So what? Let them look all they want. They must be bored waiting for the traffic jam to end. Sorry, though, folks, this is all I'll be taking off today. (11)
The Well-Tempered Clavier was truly heavenly music for mathematicians. It was composed of prelude and fugue pairs in major and minor keys using all twelve tones of the scale, twenty-four pieces per book, forty-eight pieces in all, comprising a perfect cycle. (206)
Whenever the sixth tune on the flip side of the LP, "Atlanta Blues," began, she would grab one of Tengo's body parts and praise Bigard's concise, exquisite solo, which was sandwiched between Armstrong's song and his trumpet solo. "Listen to that! Amazing — that first, long wail like a little child's cry! What is it — surprise? Overflowing joy? An appeal for happiness? It turns into a joyful sigh and weaves its way through a beautiful river of sound until it's smoothly absorbed into some perfect, unknowable place. There! Listen!" (328)
When she woke, the hands of the clock were pointing to four-thirty. Using the food still left in the refrigerator, she made herself some ham and eggs. She drank orange juice straight from the carton. The silence after her nap was strangely heavy. She turned on the FM radio to find Vivaldi's Concert for Woodwinds playing. The piccolo was trilling away like the chirping of a little bird. To Aomame, this sounded like music intended to emphasize the unreality of her present reality. (375)
"Remember how the old song goes, 'Without your love, it's a honky-tonk parade'?" He hummed the melody. "Do you know it?"
"'It's Only a Paper Moon'."
"That's it. 1984 and 1Q84 are fundamentally the same in terms of how they work. If you don't believer in the world, and if there is no love in it, then everything is phony. No matter which world we are talking about, no matter what kind of world we are talking about, the line separating fact from hypothesis is practically invisible to the eye." (463)
Spinning on the turntable just then was Louis Armstrong singing "Chantez les Bas," a memorable song. It reminded him of his girlfriend. They had often listened to this one between bouts of lovemaking. Near the end, the trombonist, Trummy Young, gets carried away, forgets to end his solo at the agreed-upon point, and plays eight extra bars. "Here, this is the part," his girlfriend had explained to him. When it ended, it was Tengo's job to get out of bed naked, go to the next room, and turn the LP over to play the second side. He felt a twinge of nostalgia recalling those days. (506)
Another Rolling Stones record was playing. "Little Red Rooster" — a performance from the time Mick Jagger was crazy about Chicago blues. Not bad, but not a song written for people engaged in deep thinking or in the midst of seriously digging through old memories. The Rolling Stones were not a band much given to such kindness. (523)
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2013, 2014)
As they listened to one piano recording, Tsukuru realized that he'd heard the composition many times in the past. He didn't know the title, however, or the composer. It was a quiet, sorrowful piece that began with a slow, memorable theme that played out as single notes, then proceeded into a series of tranquil variations. Tsukuru looked up from the book he was reading and asked Haida what it was.
'"Franz Liszt's 'La mal du pays.' It's from his Years of Pilgrimage Suite 'Year One: Switzerland.'"
"'La mal du…'?"
"'La mal du pays.' It's French. Usually it's translated as 'homesickness,' or 'melancholy.' If you put a finer point on it, it's more like 'a groundless sadness called forth in a person's heart by a pastoral landscape.' It's a hard expression to translate accurately." (68-9)
Midorikawa hesitantly began playing "'Round Midnight." At first he played each chord carefully, cautiously, like a person sticking his toes into a stream, testing the swiftness of the water and searching for a foothold. After playing the main theme, he started a long improvisation. As time went by, his fingers became more agile, more generous, in their movements, like fish swimming in clear water. The left hand inspired the right, the right hand spurred on the left. Haida's father didn't know much about jazz, but he did happen to be familiar with this Thelonious Monk composition, and Midorikawa's performance went straight to the heart of the piece. His playing was so soulful it made Haida forget about the piano's erratic tuning. As he listened to the music in this junior high music-room deep in the mountains, as the sole audience for this performance, Haida felt all that was unclean inside him washed away. (86)
"Three years ago I was invited, as the top salesman in Japan, to attend a conference in Las Vegas for U.S. Lexus dealers. More of a reward for my performance than a real conference. After meetings in the morning, it was gambling and drinking the rest of the day. 'Viva Las Vegas' was like the city's theme song — you heard it everywhere you went. When I hit it big at roulette, too, it was playing in the background. Since then that song's been my lucky charm." (180)