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Stage and television actress Oon said that for a non-fan like her, the concert is a very easy way to access Murakami. — TODAY picStage and television actress Oon said that for a non-fan like her, the concert is a very easy way to access Murakami. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 24 — Haruki Murakami is well known for using musical references to enhance moods in his writing: His readers say they hear melodies through his words.

Now, a concert experience intends to translates the words back into music — and add layers in the process.

Listen To Haruki Murakami: Music Beyond Words features two Japanese musical acts — jazz pianist Chihiro Yamanaka and the all-girl 1966 Quartet, best known for playing covers of The Beatles, Queen and Michael Jackson, along with local pianist Lim Yan.

Directed by Drama Box’s artistic director Kok Heng Leun, the production will also see Singapore actors Oon Shu An and Joshua Lim weaving in text and providing a framework for the pieces.

But while neither Oon nor Lim has read any of Murakami’s works, the attraction of his name was so great that they wanted to be a part of the production.

Stage and television actress Oon said that for a non-fan like her, the concert is “a very easy way” to access Murakami “because you’re experiencing it as opposed to having to read the words”. “That, to me, has been very interesting and helpful,” she said, although she added that she did “buy six of the books” in the end.

“The people who have read him will have Easter eggs (to find); those who have never read any of his books can still have a story from all the themes,” quipped Lim.

But there’s a reason Kok hand-picked these two actors. In Murakami’s characters, he explained, there is a certain freshness and youngness in their voices. “They are always searching for something. The guys usually want to find something but they’re not sure what they want. The girls always know what they want, and they will just go, and the guy will be like, ‘Where are you going? I want to go there too.’ So, I was looking for two actors who are, in a way, also searching for something themselves.”

For both Oon and Lim, music and words are equally moving. “As (I am) a performer, music is actually my foundation,” said Lim, who played the piano and flute at a young age. “(But) when someone manages to express so clearly on a page something you feel inside you, it just blows your mind.”

But Kok has his work cut out for him for that very reason. “Murakami is so dear to all his readers. When somebody reads a Murakami line, I think the audience will decide whether they are reading it correctly. That is one of the reasons I want the actors to handle the lines in a more restrained way,” he said.

“The Japanese have a lot of restraint ... So, I think it’s about finding that depth and reach of emotion; not necessarily having to show it, but still having it there. For me, that’s a challenge,” Oon added.

The other challenge, Kok continued, is that while people will come for the music, the text must serve it well. “It cannot take attention away from the music — but in the end, people must remember that the music lives through the words,” he said. — TODAY

* Listen To Haruki Murakami: Music Beyond Words runs on Oct 28 and 29 at 8pm at Victoria Theatre. Tickets from S$20 (RM60) from SISTIC.

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