Joyce in Music

Patti Smith reads Finnegans Wake
photo by Jork Weismann

James Joyce in Music (Adaptations, Interpretations and Inspirations)

a bibliographical chronology of musical works inspired by Joyce

James Joyce loved music. In his youth Joyce was known as a talented tenor, and his writings are filled with musical references and allusions (see Bronze by Gold Heard for more on this). Musicians are also quite fond of James Joyce. With many musicians finding inspiration in his works, Waywords and Meansigns is only one of the many Joycean approaches to music.

This bibliography is a work in progress; we welcome your additions, submissions, and corrections, so please contact us. You can also read more about our project setting Finnegans Wake to music, listen and get involved.

Many of the references here are self-evident. When applicable, secondary articles are linked. An old thread from the I Love Music forum provided a couple dozen obscure references.

1850-1860
The Irish ballad “Finnegan’s Wake” arises in the music-hall tradition of comical Irish songs. Its cyclical story of hod-carrier Tim Finnegan’s fatal, whiskey-prompted fall from a ladder and subsequent resurrection famously provides the basis for Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake (see 1959, 1962, 1998).

1907
Joyce’s 1907 book of poetry, Chamber Music, was set to music by numerous composers. As Joyce remarked: “The best is Molyneux Palmer. After him are [Ernest Jones] Moeran and [Arthur] Bliss.” Beginning shortly after the book’s first publication, Over the course of three decades Irish opera composer Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer set Chamber Music to music, but the majority of his settings were not discovered until the 1980s.

1926
Karol Szymanowski, one of Poland’s most celebrated composers, composed Siedem pieśni do słów Jamesa Joyce’a (Seven Songs on Words by James Joyce) for voice and piano. Songs five through seven were completed by Adam Neuer.

1932
Joyce’s collection of poems, Pomes Penyeach, was set to music by Ernest Jones Moeran; Arnold Bax; Albert Roussel; Herbert Hughes; John Ireland; Roger Sessions; Arthur Bliss; Herbert Howells; George Antheil; Edgardo Carducci; Eugene Goossens; CW Orr; and Bernard Van Diere. James Joyce Centre has the story. Some of the songs can be found on YouTube.

1934
Joyce completed his final revision of the poem “Post Ulixem Scriptum” also known as “Molly Bloomagain”. Based on an Irish drinking song, the piece represents a transit from Ulysses to Finnegans Wake. (Thanks to Peter Chrisp and the James Joyce Gazette for information on this.)

1937
American composer Samuel Barber’s “Three Songs, Op. 10” are also poems from Chamber Music. Throughout his career, Barber continued setting Joyce’s words to music. (see 1947, 1968, 1971)

1942
Avant-garde composer John Cage wrote “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs“, which features text from Finnegans Wake. Cage was a big fan of the Wake, continually drawing on the text throughout his career. Luciano Berio and Cathy Berberian would later incorporated Cage’s piece into their repertoire. (see 1979, 1985, 1993)

1947
Samuel Barber’s “Nuvoletta” is adapted from Finnegans Wake. (see 1937, 1968, 1971)

1953
Luciano Berio sets three poems from Chamber Music to music, to be performed by his wife Cathy Berberian. (see 1958, 1959, 2007)

1958
Emerging as a pioneer of electro-music, Italian composer Luciano Berio writes his Thema (Omaggio a Joyce), incorporating Cathy Berberian reading from Ulysses. Berio remixes this piece in his 1961 piece Visage. (Important to note: whereas contemporary electronic music is often “popular music,” many early electronic musicians were steeped in the classical music traditions.) (see 1953, 1959, 2007)

David Del Tredici wrote his Four Songs on Texts of James Joyce. In a 2002 interview with Tom Voegeli, Del Tredici explained: “I’ve always been a composer dependent on texts. For a number of years I set James Joyce because I was a lapsed Catholic like Joyce. I was drawn to his tortured life, which fit my musical style at the time, which was dissonant and nearly atonal.”

1959
Trumpeter and fledgling composer Phil Lesh performs his big band arrangement “Finnegan’s Awake” at San Mateo College in Northern California. According to Denis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip another early Lesh composition also refers the Wake, “The Sound of a Man Being Habitacularly Fondseed” (FW 4.31). In 1962 Lesh began studying with Berio at Mills College in Oakland, where he was classmates with a young Steve Reich. In 1964 Jerry Garcia convinced to Lesh to give up trumpet and play bass in Garcia’s rock band. This band later became the Grateful Dead. (see 1968, 1975, 1986, 2005, 2009, 2013)

The Clancy Brothers release a rendition of the traditional Irish ballad Finnegan’s Wake with Tommy Makem on an album of traditional Irish drinking songs. The song becomes a staple for the group. (see 1850-1860, 1962, 1998)

1962
Irish folk band The Dubliners is founded in Dublin, named after Joyce’s short-story collection. In 1966, The Dubliners record a live album titled Finnegan Wakes, featuring one of the best-known renditions of the ballad “Finnegan’s Wake“. (see 1850-1860, 1959, 1998)

1963
Allan Sherman’s song “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter from Camp)“, released as a single and then included on the album My Son, the Nut, includes the lyric “the head coach wants no sissies/ So he reads to us from something called Ulysses“.

1966
Prior to becoming a songwriter, Leonard Cohen was a novelist. His second novel, Beautiful Losers, was decreed Joycean by the Boston Sunday Herald: “James Joyce is not dead. He lives in Montreal under the name of Leonard Cohen.” This quote was subsequently used to promote Cohen’s 1967 debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. (see 1986)

Choreographer Jean Erdman’s The Coach with the Six Insides is a musical play based on Finnegans Wake, with music by Teiji Ito.

André Hodeir releases Anna Livia Plurabelle, a jazz cantata based on Finnegans Wake. (see 1972)

1967
After Bathing at Baxter’s, the album by psychedelic San Francisco band Jefferson Airplane, includes a song about Leopold and Molly Bloom entitled “Rejoyce“.

1968
Solitary Hotel” in Samuel Barber’s song cycle Despite and Still includes text from Ulysses. (see 1937, 1947, 1971)

According to David Shenk and Steve Silberman in their Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads, while the Grateful Dead were recording their album Anthem of the Sun, “instead of the ‘one, two, three’ that kicks off most recording sessions, Robert Hunter would recite sections of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake by heart”. As Robert Hunter, the Dead’s primary lyricist, explained to Steve Silberman in a 1992 interview: “Before I was writing songs, I was a stoned James Joyce head, Finnegans Wake head. I can still recite the first page and last couple of pages of that thing. There was something in the way those words socketed together, and the wonderful feel of reciting them, that very, very deeply influenced me.” (see 1959, 1968, 1975, 1986, 2005, 2009, 2013)

The Producers, a film and subsequent musical by Mel Brooks, stars Gene Wilder as Leo Bloom. Bloom’s co-star is Max Bialystock, played by Zero Mostel. In the film, the two characters first met each other on June 16, which is the date Ulysses also takes places (and the day is now celebrated as Bloomsday).

Side A of the Firesign Theatre’s How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All concludes with a recitation of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy from Ulysses.

1969

Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Requiem für einen jungen Dichter (Requiem for a Young Poet) includes text from Molly Bloom’s soliloquy.

1970
Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd releases his solo album The Madcap Laughs. The album features “Golden Hair“, a poem by Joyce from Pomes Penyeach, set to music by Barrett.

1971
Samuel Barber’s “Fadograph of a Yestern Scene” features text from Finnegans Wake. (see 1937, 1947, 1968)

1972

André Hodeir and the Swingle Singer’s Bitter Ending is based on Finnegans Wake. (see 1966)

1975
Electro-music composer Ned Lagin worked with an all-star cast of rock ‘n’ rollers to create an experimental music piece entitled Seastones, which includes spoken passages allegedly influenced by Finnegans Wake. Featuring David Crosby; Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead; and Grace Slick, David Freiberg and Spencer Dryden of Jefferson Airplane. Lagin also performed “Seastones” on-stage with the Grateful Dead numerous times in 1974. (see 1959, 1968, 1986, 2005, 2009, 2013)

1978
Canadian punk band Nomeansno forms, originally consisting of brothers Rob and John Wright. Rob Wright is reportedly a huge fan of Joyce and at least one of the band’s album covers is said to contain a Finnegans Wake quote. (If you know which album has the quote, please tell us!)

1979
John Cage writes perhaps the most famous musical setting of Finnegans Wake. Roaratorio, an Irish circus on Finnegans Wake  premieres on Klaus Schöning radio programme for West German Radio. Modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham, a longtime collaborator with John Cage, created a dance piece for Roaratorio in 1983. [thanks to Hugo Truyens for more info; Brazen Head had the story but site is now defunct](see 1942, 1985, 1993)

1980
Toru Takemitsu, the great 20th century Japanese composer, composes Far calls. Coming, far! for violin and orchestra. The piece takes its title from the closing passage of Finnegans Wake. (see 1981, 1984, 2009)

1981
Taking his title from the Wake’s closing passage, Toru Takemitsu composes A Way a Lone for string quartet. The piece is later arranged for orchestra, A Way A Lone II. (see 1980, 1984, 2009)

1982
My House“, a song on Lou Reed’s album The Blue Mask, includes the lyric “My Dedalus to your Bloom, was such a perfect wit/ and to find you in my house makes things perfect”.

The British rock band Baby Tuckoo is formed, talking their name from a line in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

1984
One of his “Waterscape” pieces, Toru Takemitsu composes riverrun, borrowing the title from the Wake’s opening. (see 1980, 1981, 2009)

Southern California hardcore punk group Minutemen release their magnum opus, Double Nickels on the Dime. Minutemen bassist Mike Watt — who is also a Waywords and Meansigns contributor — has emphasized over the years how the album was influenced by “Jim Joyce” in numerous ways, most obviously on the song “June 16th.” (see 1984, 1991, 1997, 2008)

1985
John Cage’s solo organ piece ASLSP takes its title from the Wake. Written on the score of the piece: “The title is an abbreviation of ‘as slow as possible.’ It also refers to ‘Soft morning, city! Lsp!’ the first exclamations in the last paragraph of Finnegans Wake (James Joyce).” By deduction Cage’s 1987 adaptation of ASLSP — a 24-hour piece entitled Organ²/ASLSP (As SLow aS Possible) — also takes its name from the Wake. (see 1942, 1979, 1993)

British post-punk band The Wake released their album Here Comes Everybody.

Game Theory’s album Real Nighttime opens with a brief introductory track entitled “Here Comes Everybody“, a Finnegans Wake reference.

Current 93 and Sickness of Snakes release a 12″ split with a quote from Finnegans Wake written on the album’s spine: “Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax! Ualu Ualu Ualu! Quaouauh!” Current 93’s song “Killy Kill Killy (A Fire Sermon)” is dedicated to James Joyce.

1986
Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead join mythologist Joseph Campbell and Jungian analyst John Weir Perry for “Ritual and Rapture, From Dionysus to the Grateful Dead”, a day of discussion and music at San Francisco’s Palace of the Fine Arts. When asked about his meeting with Campbell in a 1987 interview, Garcia explained: “I was a Joseph Campbell fan back in the early ’60s when I read theSkeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. Which I was fascinated by, and Finnegans Wake — I was fascinated by James Joyce in the early ’60s.”(see 1959, 1968, 1975, 2005, 2009, 2013)

Secret Girls” on Sonic Youth’s EVOL album has an apparent Ulysses reference with the lyric “My mother used to say/ You’re the boy that can enjoy invisibility.” The lyrics “I AM THE BOY/ THAT CAN ENJOY/ INVISIBILITY” appear in Ulysses, as Stephen Dedalus recalls a song from the musical Turko the Terrible. (see 2008)

Asked about James Joyce’s influence on his songwriting, Leonard Cohen explains that a select few passages from Joyce had great impact on him: “‘The Dead.’ That paragraph. It’s not the work of an author, but maybe five lines. It’s those five lines that will get me reluctantly to explore the rest of the guy’s work. But that paragraph I’ve never forgotten. There’s that paragraph “Snow was general all over Ireland.” It described the snow. It’s Montreal. It’s our snow, our black iron gates in Montreal. It was perfect and the other one was – I believe it was from the Portrait. He sees this women with seaweed on her thigh. That passage, and snow general all over Ireland, and David seeing Bathsheba on the roof. There are three or four scenes like that that destroyed my life. I couldn’t escape those visions. Now I feel I’m overthrowing them. (see 1966)

Hans Zender premieres his Joyce-inspired opera Stephen Climax.

1987
Current 93’s album Swastikas for Goddy includes a quote from Finnegans Wake in the liner notes: “When all vegetation is covered by the flood there are now eyebrows on the face of the Waterworld.”

Myron Myers and Erik Levi ‎release Pomes Penyeach: Settings Of Poetry By James Joyce on the Musical Heritage Society label.

1988
The band Nation of Ulysses forms in the Washington D.C. post-punk scene.

The North American version of The Pogues’ If I Should Fall from Grace with God includes a picture of James Joyce on the album cover.

Irish singer-songwriter Barry Moore dons the new performance name of Luka Bloom in 1987, releasing his eponymous album in 1988. “Luka” is said to be a reference to the Suzanne Vega song, “Bloom” a reference to Ulysses‘s Leopold Bloom. (In recent years, Suzanne Vega also told The Guardian that she enjoys reading James Joyce.)

1989
Eclectic pop musician Kate Bush requested permission from the James Joyce Estate to use Molly Bloom’s soliloquy (the final passage in Ulysses) on the title track of Bush’s album The Sensual World. Her request was finally approved, in 2011.

Named after a line from Ulysses, The Sweets of Sin release their eponymous debut album with Jarra Hill Records.

Hector Zazou’s Géologies contains the tracks “…Livia…”, “…Plurabelle”, and “Anna…”. (“Anna…” was only included on the CD version.)

The band Vladimir Estragon releases Three Quarks for Muster Mark taking the album’s title from Finnegans Wake. (Phil Minton of Vladimir Estragon is a Waywords and Meansigns contributor, Minton see 1996)

1991
Punk rock band, again featuring bassist and Waywords and Meansigns contributor Mike Watt, releases the song “Up Finnegan’s Ladder” on their album Flying the Flannel. (see 1984, 1997, 2008)

Derelicts of Dialect, the second album from the hip hop group 3rd Bass, features the song “Portrait of the Artist as a Hood“.

The lyrics of “Endless Art“, a song on A House’s EP Bingo, are a list of famous artists who have died. This list includes James Joyce.

1992
Nicholas Hopkins composes “Joyce Transcription I” for piano: “what I want to achieve most of all in this work is the multiplicity of sense that Joyce so astutely developed in his final book”. (see 1994)

Peter Myers publishes The Sound of Finnegans Wake, arguing that there is a “genuinely musical layer” in Joyce’s book.

The Northern Irish band Therapy? releases their album Pleasure Death. The song “Potato Junkie” repeats the refrain “James Joyce is fucking my sister.”

Able Tasmans’ song “A Conversation with Mark Byrami” on their Somebody Ate My Plant album includes the lyric “James Joyce, the lost people’s voices/ how do you say things so radically stupid and wise”.

1993
Punk rocker Joey Ramone recorded a rendition of “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs“, a piece written by John Cage (see 1942). Joey’s recording was included on Caged/Uncaged—A Rock/Experimental Homage to John Cage, an album that also featured David Byrne, Lou Reed, and Debbie Harry. (see 1942, 1979, 1985)

John Wolf Brennan’s Text, Context, Co-Text & Co-Co-Text for solo piano is inspired by Finnegans Wake and to a lesser extent, Ulysses. (see 1994, 2005)

Alfred Crumlish created chance structure “instructions for composing songs derived from Finnegans Wake by James Joyce” entitled “26 Songs from Finnegans Wake“.

The Hell’s Kitchen Opera Company produced an opera based on one of Joyce’s short stories entitled “The Dead: a one-act opera”. Directed by Linda Lehr, with music by Murray Boren and libretto by Glen Nelson.

Belgium musicians Jean-Louis Aucremanne, Alain Lemaître, Richard Redcrossed, Henry Krutzen name their new prog band Finnegans Wake.

Irish jazz guitarist Louis Stewart releases his Joyce-inspired album Joycenotes.

Waywords and Meansigns contributor Papa Sprain’s final commercial single, the 7″ Tech Yes, includes a sampling of Finnegans Wake on the title track. The sample is taken from a RTÉ documentary on Joyce, and the audio is thought to be Joyce reading from the Wake. Papa Sprain also recorded an album for Rough Trade called Finglas Since The Flood, based entirely on Finnegans Wake, which was never released. The album allegedly has two versions, one recorded in 1993 and one in 1996. This post from Bubblegum Cage III discusses the unreleased album, with a good deal of additional information provided (and debated) in the comments.

Butterfly Child (the project of Waywords and Meansigns contributor Joe Cassidy) releases Onomatopoeia, which is heavily influenced by Joyce. Like Finnegans Wake, the album is cyclical, starting wih the song “Ave and ending with “Eva”. Cassidy also described the opening lyrics of “Queen Glass” as particularly Joyce-inspired.

1994
Nicholas Hopkins re-works his 1992 piece “Joyce Transcription I” as “Double on Joyce Transcription I” for piano with modified tape: “Double on Joyce Transcription I is the sixth in a projected cycle of pieces that act as musical commentaries on James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Each piece in the cycle is based on one of the seventeen chapters of the book, and in each I attempt to transcribe Joyce’s literary operations into musical ones.”

John Wolf Brennan’s Epithalamium for chamber ensemble is inspired by James joyce’s poems, Chamber Music. (see 1993, 2005)

1994
Waywords and Meansigns contributor Martyn Bates set Chamber Music to music, released in two volumes. The first volume appeared in 1996 on the Sub Rosa record label. (see 1996)

1996
Waywords and Meansigns contributor Martyn Bates set Chamber Music to music, released in two volumes. The second volume appeared in 1996 on the Sub Rosa record label. (see 1994)

Creating an album from texts of Finnegans Wake, Waywords and Meansigns contributor Phil Minton releases his Mouthfull of Ecstasy. (see 1989)

1997
Waywords and Meansigns contributor Mike Watt releases his first solo album, a punk rock opera entitled Contemplating the Engine Room. Describing the daily life of his father, Watt reports that his album takes structural and content cue from the Odyssey and Ulysses. (see 1984, 1991, 2008)

1998
Dropkick Murphys, the pride of Boston, record a version of the traditional ballad “Finnegan’s Wake“. (see 1850-1850, 1959, 1962)

1999
James Joyce’s The Dead, a musical by Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey, based on Joyce’s short story “The Dead”. Premiered on Broadway in 2000, winning a Tony for “Best Book of a Musical”.

Andreas Vollenweider’s “Your Silver Key” on the album Cosmopoly features Carly Simon singing text from Finnegans Wake.

2000
Celtic punk band Black 47 released “I Got Laid on James Joyce’s Grave“, on their album Trouble in the Land.

Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek’s hip hop duo Reflection Eternal reference James Joyce on their Train of Thought album. The song “Memories Live” includes the lyric “it kinda make me think of way back when/ I was the portrait of the artist as a young man”.

Wilco’s album never completedHere Comes Everybody (a Finnegans Wake reference) is , with some of the albums material becoming Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. (see 2008)

2001
Amber’s song “Yes!” was number one on the US Dance charts. The song was based on Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in Ulysses and the lead single to Amber’s 2002 album Naked.

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists song “M¥ Vien iLin“, on their album The Tyranny of Distance, includes two verses referencing Joyce: “We make our days as they make us/ As I must as Odysseus/ Make myself my own Telemachus/ ‘Bous Stephanos, Stephanoumenos Dedalus!'” followed by “And if it hasn’t been a bust/ Then land-ho, Ulysseus/ And all of us like Dedalus/ Dead, dead all of us”.

2002
The band Two Gallants forms, taking their name from the short story in Dubliners.

Presumably taking their band name from Joyce’s posthumously published book, Stephen Hero releases their first full-length album Darkness & The Day.

2003
Sean Walsh’s film Bloom featured soundtrack written and produced by David Kahne. Kahne is a noted record producer and composer, as well as Joyce enthusiast; he is also a contributor to Waywords and Meansigns.

W.A.C.O. (Wild Acoustic Chamber Orchestra, led by Waywords and Meansigns contributor Steve Gregoropoulos) releases Finnegan’s W.A.C.O.

2004
DJ Spooky aka Paul D. Miller’s book Rhythm Science references Joyce a couple times. The book’s accompanying CD includes a remix track of Joyce reading from the Wake, “Oval vs Yoshihiro Hanno April Remix mixed w/ James Joyce Anna Livia Plurabelle (Finnegans Wake)“. (see 2008)

In the first volume of his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One, Bob Dylan described a conversation with Archie MacLeish, with reference to James Joyce: “Goddard Lieberson, president of Columbia Records, had given me [Ulysses] as a gift, a first-edition copy of the book and I couldn’t make hide nor hair of it. James Joyce seemed like the most arrogant man who ever lived, had both his eyes wide open and great faculty of speech, but what he say, I knew not what. I wanted to ask MacLeish to explain James Joyce to me, to make sense of something that seemed so out of control, and I knew that he would have, but I didn’t” (p. 130). (Goddard Lieberson reportedly composed choral arrangements of Joyce’s text, but little information is available on this — if anyone has more info, please let us know.) (see 2009)

Ben Watson dedicates his Resonance FM show “Late Lunch With Out To Lunch” to juxtaposing recordings of Frank Zappa’s guitar solo with readings from Finnegans Wake. (Ben Watson also mentions Finnegans Wake in his book The Complete Guide to the Music of Frank Zappa.)

2005
When asked by Chicago Tribune reporter Nina Metz, “What reading material would we find in your bathroom?”, former Grateful Dead bassist simply answers “Finnegans Wake by James Joyce”. (see 1959, 1968, 1975, 1986, 2009, 2013)

The Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble performs a musical adaptation of Finnegans Wake.

John Wolf Brennan’s song “Looking for Mr Ulysses” is released on his album I.N.I.T.I.A.L.S. – Sources along the Songlines 1979-91. (see 1993, 1994)

Beck’s song “Qué Onda Guero” on his album Guero features a man unexpectedly saying “James Joyce” and then shouting “Michael Bolton”.

2007
Electronic band Crystal Castles released “Air War“, which features sampling from Luciano Berio and Cathy Berberian’s adaptation of Ulysses. (see 1953, 1958, 1959)

2008
UK label Fire Records released a compilation album of various musicians performing the poems of Chamber Music. Featuring Peter Buck (REM; Minus 5), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth; Text Of Light), Mike Watt (The Minutemen; The Stooges); Mary Lorson (Madder Rose; Saint Low) and Christian Kiefer. Jim O’Rouke, Mike Watt and Mary Lorson are Waywords and Meansigns contributors. Jim O’Rourke, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Wayne Kramer and the Silent League were all rumored to be involved with the project as well.  (Ranaldo, see 1986; Watt, see 1984, 1991, 1997; Tweedy/Wilco, see 2001)

DJ Spooky aka Paul D. Miller’s book Sound Unbound refers Joyce in passing, and the book’s accompanying CD features a remix track of Erik Satie and James Joyce reading the Aeolus speech from Ulysses: “James Joyce/Erik Satie, ‘Eolian Episode/Gnossiene (DJ Spooky Dub Version)’“. (see 2004)

The song “Helpless Corpses Enactment“, on metal band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s album In Glorious Times, is written entirely with lyrics from Finnegans Wake.

2009
I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver/And I’m reading James Joyce/Some people tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice. A lyric from Bob Dylan’s song “I Feel A Change Comin’ On”, featured on the album Together Through Life. The entire album was co-written with former Grateful Dead lyricist and noted Joycean Robert Hunter. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan explained how he first heard Billy Joe Shaver’s song through Waylon Jennings. “Waylon played me ‘Ain’t No God in Mexico,’ and I don’t know, it was quite good… Shaver and David Allen Coe became my favorite guys in that [outlaw country] genre. The verse came out of nowhere. No … you know something? Subliminally, I can’t say that this is actually true. But I think it was more of a Celtic thing. Tying Billy Joe with James Joyce. I think subliminally or astrologically those two names just wanted to be combined. Those two personalities.” (see 2004)

Handsomeboy Technique, the DJ moniker of Yoshitaka Morino, releases his album Terrestrial Tone Cluster, containing the song “Guiding Lights (Far Calls, Coming, Far)“. The phrase “Far calls. Coming, far!” appears in the closing passage of the Wake (p. 628, ln. 13), although Morino could have encountered the title by way of Toru Takemitsu’s 1980 piece. (If anyone has information on how to contact Yoshitaka Morino, please let us know.)

2011
Waywords and Meansigns contributor Chris Rael’s song cycle “Araby” retells the stories of Dubliners. Produced twice Off-Broadway, “Araby” won the New York International Fringe Festival’s Excellence in Music Composition Award in 2011. Some of the performances are available online here; the original demos for the song cycle can be heard here.

Early electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream release an album entitled Finnegans Wake.

William Averitt composes “From Dreams” for choir with piano and viola. The piece has three movements, each incorporating text from Joyce’s poems: “Gentle lady, do not sing Sad songs”; “Sleep now, O sleep now”; and “O cool is the valley”.

Citing James Joyce as one of his favorite authors, Car Seat Head Rest references Joyce in his song “The Drum“.

2012
Composer Robert Paterson’s A New Eaarth warns about the dangers of climate change with relying on “poems and quotes from around the world, including texts by Wendell Barry, James Joyce, Percy Bysshe Shelly and William Wordsworth. The text and poems allude to the four ancient, classical elements—earth, air, fire and water.”

The King of Ithaca“, the final track on Chris Lewis’s album Paradise and Vu Du is an homage to James Joyce.

Composer, ESP-Disk manager, and Waywords and Meansigns contributor Steve Holtje records a song-cycle of Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach.

Jork Weismann’s book Asleep at the Chateau is a collection of celebrities photographed while asleep at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. Patti Smith is seen snoozing with Finnegans Wake. (see 2016)

Polish translator and Waywords and Meansigns contributor Krzysztof Bartnicki publishes Da Capo al Finne. The text removes all characters from Finnegans Wake except for A B C D E F G H, thus turning the text into a musical score. (In German key notation, B is B flat and H is B natural.) Bartnicki’s Soundcloud page include excerpts of this score, which bear resemblance to Star Wars, Chopin, the Star Spangled Banner and more. Bartnicki has sent numerous letters to John Williams, seeking to determine who is the author of the Star Wars pieces — Joyce, Williams or Bartnicki? Sara Jewell has also written a blog post about Bartnicki’s work. (see 2014, 2016)

2013
Composer Victoria Bond premieres “Cyclops” scored for speakers, choir, violin, clarinet and piano, at Symphony Space as part of the opening event of the Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival in New York City.

Wakean printmaker, artist and Waywords and Meansigns contributor Nicci Haynes creates sound piece “James Joyce reading from Finnegans Wake read by James Joyce, arranged for 20-note paper strip musical movement“.

Lyricist Indi Riverflow penned “Riverrun“, a song about the Wake, for John Kadlecik. Kadlecik is best known as a Grateful Dead-sylted guitarist, playing in Dark Star Orchestra and Furthur. Riverflow also wrote a song “Here Comes Everybody“. (Grateful Dead, see 1959, 1968, 1975, 1986, 2005, 2009)

The band Zijnzijn Zijnzijn! takes their name from Finnegans Wake; the cover on their Demos album is a reproduced page of the Wake. Their album Wordwounder also takes its titles from the Wake.

2014
English composer Stephen Crowe sets the infamous love letters to music: The Dorty Letters of James Joyce.

Irish musician Ken Cotter releases Anatomy of a Goddess, an album inspired by Ulysses.

In an interview with York’s The Press, the British rapper and poet Kate Tempest cites James Joyce as an influence: “William Blake cuts me to the core, and it’s the same with James Joyce; I couldn’t believe how he wrote. It was the same when listening to Wu-Tang Clan at 14; I’d never heard language like that in storytelling.”

Riverdance uncharacteristically adds a new song to their repertoire, entitled “Anna Livia“.

Paweł Paide Dunajko remixes Krzysztof Bartnicki’s Finnegans Wake-derived music for Radio Alternator. Bartnicki publishes James Joyce: Finnegans ake. Suite in the Key of E, using cross-cultural musical notation systems to seek a musical score with the Wake, claiming that only 4% of the Wake cannot be deciphered musically. (see 2012, 2016)

2015
The title track on composer Wiel Conen and singer Charlotte Gilissen’s album Charlotte’s Drone includes text from Ulysses. Conen and Gilissen are also Waywords and Meansigns contributors.

Joanna Newsom’s song “Time, a Symptom” on her Divers album contains reference to the closing passage of the Wake: “Joy! Again, around–a pause, a sound–a song: a way a lone a last a loved a long“.

Woodwind instrumentalist, composer and Waywords and Meansigns contributor Seán Mac Erlaine performs Alas Awake in Dublin, a site-specific homage to the Wake.

Waywords and Meansigns contributors The Science of Deduction’s album Blue Ocean Rising, Red Blood Running includes a track “James Joyce is Going Blind“.

Composer and Waywords and Meansigns contributor Julia Barnes created a song cycle with nine poems of Joyce’s Pomes Penyeach and select accompanying Dutch translations.

The title track on Tom Robinson’s Only the Now is inspired in part by Ulysses.

Melanie O’Reilly’s celtic-jazz album Ceol Ceantair/District Music is inspired in part by the work James Joyce.

2016
Waywords and Meansigns contributor Maharadja Sweets releases The Caprice of Young Gods, featuring “The Giant Awakes Again“, a song inspired by the Wake.

Josephine Foster releases No More Lamps in the Morning on Fire Records, featuring a musical arrangement of Joyce’s poem “My Dove, My Darling“.

Jonathan Brielle premieres his musical Himself and Nora, about the relationship between Joyce and his wife Nora Barnacle.

Grant Morgan, a sophomore at The Peak School in Frisco, wins the Summit Music and Arts Young Composer Competition for his Joyce-inspired piece “Finnegans Fall”.

When asked about the legacy of the Allman Brothers Band, drummer Butch Trucks said, “What I’m most proud of is taking the door that Cream opened with rock improvisation and adding John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and jazz into the mixture… Charlie Parker is probably the greatest example of this. I mean, listening to Charlie Parker is like reading James Joyce. You’ve got to really dig into it, and if you really climb into what he’s doing, the melody is there, it’s like deep listening.”

The Wall Street Journal photographs Patti Smith’s copy of Finnegans Wake. “The book is a first edition… signed by James Joyce in green ink. The book is almost unreadable—but as an object it’s beautiful.” (see 2012)

The River Has Many Voices cites Joyce as an inspiration for his songwriting: “Books and poems have been some of my favorite music. They reach a depth of musicality that much music is too limited to reach… James Joyce showed me how the number of chords are endless in prose.”

Composer Dave Malloy is working on “Impossible Novels Trilogy“, which includes setting Moby Dick and Ulysses to music.

Liam Wade composes an eight-song cycle for tenor and piano, based on James Joyce’s Chamber Music.

Composer, saxophonist, and Waywords and Meansigns contributor Hayden Chisholm released Finn Again Wakes, an album setting passages of the Wake to music.

David Mowat’s Comprivations, performed at Saint Stephen’s Church on Bloomsday,  combines musical improvisation and readings of Joyce at

Mr. Smolin and Double Naughty Spy Car release an instrumental version of their recording for Waywords and Meansigns, entitled That Tragoady Thundersday.

Rapper Vince Staples includes the lyric “I write the James Joyce/ Don’t need the Rolls Royce” in his song “Loco” off his Prima Donna EP.

Camille O’Sullivan and Paul Kelly’s Ancient Rain recounts 100 years of Irish writing, set to music. The performance includes an acted out scene from Joyce’s short story “The Dead”.

Taylor Mac’s drag and cabaret inspired “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” includes what one reviewer called “a surreal dance-off between a group of ukulele-strumming Tiny Tims and a bunch of tap-dancers dressed in Grecian robes in a fanciful homage to James Joyce’s Ulysses.”

In his autobiography Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen recalls how when Mike Appel first heard Springsteen’s early demos — the seeds of Greetings from Asbury Park — “he compared me to Dylan, Shakespeare, James Joyce and Bozo the Clown”.

Los Angeles band Night Talks releases a song about Leopold Bloom called “Mr. Bloom“.

Jazz guitarist Larry Coryell was working on an opera based on Ulysses. It is unclear whether he finished the work before his death in 2017. In September 2016 Coryell told the Maui Time, “Joyce is more like a jazz musician than most authors… I wouldn’t go through the trouble except my initial musical ideas in the early going of the so-called ‘story’ seem to be effective, so I will soldier on, slowly extracting content from the book and converting it to music.”

Austin Classical Guitar’s performance nocturne [end] includes passages of Finnegans Wake, read by Waywords and Meansigns contributor Peter Quadrino and Derek Otto.

Waywords and Meansigns contributor Matt Battle’s album What’s it all about? includes the track “Ulysses“.

Roger Doyle’s Frail Things in Eternal Places culls song titles from lines of Finnegans Wake.

Polish translator and Waywords and Meansigns contributor Krzysztof Bartnicki performs a concert of Finnegans Wake derived music in Bytom, Poland. The highlight is an imitation of David Bowie’s “Warszawa“. Bartnicki’s work is also presented in Warsaw’s National Gallery. (see 2012, 2014)