Saturday, April 8, 2017

Finnegans Wake and Music

Waywords and Meaningsigns is an ongoing project run by Derek Pyle that invites musicians and sound artists to construct a piece of music or create an audio environment of some kind set to a passage from Finnegans Wake.  The deadline for the 20017 edition is looming, it's May 4th -  I am late in getting this posted - but there's still time for a submission.  As those familiar with this epic work know, Finnegans Wake, apart from including actual songs with musical notation, has many passages that sound like music when read aloud.  At times, it seems that James Joyce places more value in the rhythm, sounds and implied melodies the words make, relegating their meaning to a secondary role.  James Joyce was an accomplished singer who had the literary ability to sing through his text.

This amazing project follows the hallowed footsteps of no less a musical icon than John Cage who composed Roarotorio, an Irish circus on Finngeans Wake.  I intend to participate though my submission will be for next year's edition.

I plugged in the word "music" to a Finnegans Wake concordance and this was the first entry, from page 48:

a choir of the O'Daley O'Doyles doublesixing
the chorus in Fenn Mac Call and the Seven Feeries of Loch Neach
Galloper Troller and Hurleyquinn the zitherer of the past with his
merrymen all, zimzim, zimzim.  Of the persins sin this Eyrawyg-
gla saga (which thorough readable to int from and, is from tubb 
to bottom all falsetissues, antilibellous and nonactionable and this
apllies to its whole wholume) of poor Osti-Fosti, described as 
quite a musical genius in a small way and the owner of an
exceedingly niced ear, with tenorist voice to match, not alone,
but a very major poet of the poorly meritary order (he began
Tuonisonian but worked his passage up as far as the we-all-
hang-together Animandovites) no end is known.

Text like this almost begs for musical accompaniment to frame and enhance the music already there.

Here is the official press release about the project:

A diverse cast of musicians, readers, and artists are creating what may be the year's most innovative musical-literary project: James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake set to music. 

An ongoing project with over 100 contributors from 15 different countries, Waywords and Meansigns features original music and readings from punk rock icon Mike Watt, Mercury Rev veterans Jason Sebastian Russo and Paul Dillon, Joe Cassidy of Butterfly Child, psych-rockers Kinski, vocalist Phil Minton, poet S.A. Griffin, Martyn Bates of Eyeless in Gaza, Little Sparta with Sally Timms (Mekons) and Martin Billheimer, composer Seán Mac Erlaine, Schneider TM, and many more.

“James Joyce basically invented his own language when writing Finnegans Wake,” explains project director Derek Pyle. “It's the kind of thing that demands creative approaches — from jazz and punk musicians to sound artists and modern composers, each person hears and performs the text in a way that’s totally unique and endlessly exciting.”

With the 2017 release debuting on May 4, Waywords and Meansigns utilizes their independent digital platform to make Joyce’s text more accessible to 21st century audiences. Waywords and Meansigns also aims to release future musical recordings of Finnegans Wake on an ongoing basis — interested individuals are encouraged to contact project director Derek Pyle. All audio from the project is distributed freely under Creative Commons licensing at

Waywords and Meansigns: Recreating Finnegans Wake in its whole wholume. James Joyce's Finnegans Wake set to music unabridged. Musical adaptation audiobook.

No comments:

Post a Comment