3,350 Song Playlist from Haruki Murakami's Record Collection

If you've read any book Murakami has written, you'll know that he scatters music throughout, like a great filmmaker imbuing the story with greater story. I happen to love, yes love, Haruki Murakami's writing which makes me more than interested in him. Being more than interested in music, to boot, makes this 3,350 song Spotify playlist more than a playlist; it's like a thought-journey in song.
“Despite being an amateur (or perhaps because of it), whenever I listen to music, I do so without preconceptions, simply opening my ears to the more wonderful passages and physically taking them in. When those wonderful passages are there, I feel joy, and when some parts are not so wonderful, I listen with a touch of regret. Beyond that, I might pause to think about what makes a certain passage wonderful or not so wonderful, but other musical elements are not that important to me. Basically, I believe that music exists to make people happy. In order to do so, those who make music use a wide range of techniques and methods which, in all their complexity, fascinate me in the simplest possible way.”
Haruki Murakami, Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa
the author and his stories

With such a long list of mainly jazz and classical picks, there are bound to be some overlap between Murakami and us/ours. Nevertheless, sometimes the inevitable feels more like meaningful coincidence (e.g. Hoagy Carmichael).

the author at his jazz club, Peter Cat, c.1978

Here's a taste of the author at work:

“Shimamoto was in charge of the records. She'd take one from its jacket, place it carefully on the turntable without touching the grooves with her fingers, and, after making sure to brush the cartridge free of any dust with a tiny brush, lower the needle ever so gently onto the record. When the record was finished, she'd spray it and wipe it with a felt cloth. Finally she'd return the record to its jacket and its proper place on the shelf. Her father had taught her this procedure, and she followed his instructions with a terribly serious look on her face, her eyes narrowed, her breath held in check. Meanwhile, I was on the sofa, watching her every move. Only when the record was safely back on the shelf did she turn to me and give a little smile. And every time, this thought hit me: It wasn't a record she was handling. It was a fragile soul inside a glass bottle.”
― Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun

johnnyshotfirst's picture

Gotta ask, anyone know what kind speakers those are looming behind him?

Plato65's picture

I found somewhere on the web this description of Murakami's audio system (Google Translate from Japanese; for whatever reason Torrance = Thorens & Holt phone = Ortofon):

Murakami's audio system introduction! Because it is 10-year-old article from now, the complete and current use system might not match, the speaker system is probably, I think that it is the same. According to the article, first, the main speaker, in the JBL, for bass D130, for the mid-range is 2440 + HL89, and is for the treble 2420. This is, by the time you had to run a jazz cafe seems to be a system that has been used in the shop. By the way, the sub-speakers, of phosphorus there and AV5140, this year, on its own so that was not in the same study that was taken , I think. Then, the amplifier of Accuphase E407, also of Murakami's unique favorite classic do you a choice. CD player in the X1 of the esoteric, analog player is, of Torrance to TD521 is SPU-GE of the Holt phone has been set. And, another single, from jazz cafe era of Denon (now Denon) that they continued to use had DP3700 is listed. Still the analog record at home and abroad Murakami's unique that they keep buying? It is! It is a system that can be said. Other than a CD player, maybe it might still have been used in active service. By introducing a high-end system, and might listen to music with better sound I heard sometimes I think, know and love many years sound to hear in the JBL is so's favorite. Somehow, I'm good ~ ♪ to say that? It is! Such a Murakami on Manet, I tried to had made a record cleaner! (Bitter smile)

And here's another snippet found somewhere:

The speaker is JBL's backload horn and Tannoy Berkeley. JBL has been using for nearly 40 years, Tannoy was acquired from acquaintance several years ago. Both are speakers of 38 cm, but the sounds are quite different. Tannoy is a transistor, JBL is ringing in a vacuum tube. What is on the speaker is a pair of sky flying cats that I bought in London, polar bears I bought at Norway's flea market, and wood carved rats bought in Myanmar. It is a strange combination, but there is no particular intention. In the early hours of the morning I often work while listening to Tannoy and when I listen to music from the front I will also snooze JBL.

And here's a description of his work habits. Apparently, he also picks a pile of records before going to sleep and then listens to those while writing. The room in the picture is his office. His writing desk is facing the speakers & window and the audio gear is right behind his desk.

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind. But to hold to such repetition for so long—six months to a year—requires a good amount of mental and physical strength. In that sense, writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic sensitivity.

Bob Karp's picture

wow. Fascinating. I have not read Murakami, but I love that passage from South of the Border, West of the Sun. Thanks for posting this, Michael. It's always interesting to glimpse inside the mind of an artist we admire. Choices of inspiration, such as music, may show more than even the artist themselves might articulate. Though, Murakami's conversation with Seiji Ozawa shows remarkable self-reflection. I need to add him to my reading list.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...most everything I've read from Murakami, "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" is one I hold especially dear.
biglebowski's picture

It seems 66 songs didn't make their way across but here, for the most part, is this playlist in Tidal.