Friday, July 30, 2010

James Joyce, M'appari, and a cool old guitar


(James Joyce playing a guitar in 1915)

In the 11th episode of Ulysses by James Joyce, nicknamed "sirens," there is a confluence of rhythms and words always worth another look.

It is shortly after 4 pm in the bar at the Ormond Hotel. Simon Dedalus sings "M'appari tutto amor" from Martha by Flotow. Here is an irresistible early recording of that aria sung by Aristodemo Giorgini to put you in the mood:



The first stanza:

M'appari tutt' amor, (Your apparition full of love)
il mio sguardo l'incontro; (and my sorrow departed)
bella si che il mio cor, (so beautiful that my heart)
ansioso a lei volo; (flew with longing)

Bloom is writing a letter to someone named Martha as this song commences and he notes the coincidence. He then wanders into a lovely riff:

"Numbers it is. All music when you come to think. Two multiplied by two divided by half is twice one. Vibrations: chords those are. One plus two plus six is seven. Do anything you like with figures juggling. Always find out this equal to that. Symmetry under a cemetery wall. He doesn’t see my mourning. Callous: all for his own gut. Musemathematics. And you think you’re listening to the etherial. But suppose you said it like: Martha, seven times nine minus x is thirtyfive thousand. Fall quite flat. It’s on account of the sounds it is."

It is...

4 comments:

  1. Symmetry under a cemetery wall.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great...right? So many musicians have noticed the gorgeous sound of James Joyce's writing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If I'm not mistaken, Joyce had a fine singing voice himself, and once finished second to the famous tenor John McCormick in a singing competition.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.

    ReplyDelete

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