Cage en Finnegans Wake

James Joyce, 1934 – Finnegans Wake – the book the web was invented for

Finnegans Wake, het grootste literaire werk van de Twintigste Eeuw noemde John Cage het. Als componist ging zijn voorliefde uit naar de beeldende en literaire kunst, afgezien van Eric Satie, evenals hij een autodidact. Geattendeerd op een volledige lezing van Finnegans Wake wil ik graag aansluiten met het eerste hoorspel van Cage, Roaratorio, gemaakt in opdracht van de WDR. Er zouden meerdere volgen. Over Finnegans eerst het volgende, het stamt uit een brochure van de KRO t.g.v. Sounday 15-6-78.

In Paris Joyce worked on Finnegans Wake, the title of which was kept secret, the novel being know simply as “Work in Progress” until published in its entirety in May 1939. In addition to his chronic eye troubles Joyce suffered great and prolonged anxiety over his daughter’s mental health. What had seemed slight exentriecity grew into unmistakable and sometimes violent mental disorder which Joyce tried by every possible means to cure, but it became necessary to place her in a mental hospital near Paris. In 1931 he and Nora visited London, where tey were married, his scuples having yielded to his daughter’s complaints.

Meanwhile he wrote and rewrote sections of his new book; often a passage was revised more than 14 times before he was satisfied. Every word, every letter was scrutinized and pondered over. He usually began with a simple narrative. Basically the book is in one sense, the story of a publican in Chapelizod, near Dublin, his wife, and their three childern; but Mr. Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, Mrs. Anna Livia, Shem, Shaun, and Isobel, are every family of mankind, the archetypal family about whom all mankind is dreaming.

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László Moholy-Nagy

The 18th-century Italian Giambattista Vico provides the basic theory that history is cyclic; to demonstrate this the book begins with the end of a sentence left unfinished on the last page. Ideally it should be bound in a circle. It is thousands of dreams in one.

Languages merge; Anna Livia has “Vlossyhair” -vlossy being Polish for hair; “a bad of wind” blows; bad is Turkish for wind.

Characters from literature and history appear and merge and disappear as “the intermisunderstanding minds of the anticollaborators” dream on. On another level, the protagonists are the city of Dublin and the river Liffey, which flows enchantingly through the pages, “leaning with the sloothering side of her, giddy-gaddy, grannyma, gossipaceous Anna Livia”. And throughout the book James Joyce himself is present, joking, mocking his critics, defending his theories, remembering his father, enjoying himself.

Despite much scholarly study the book remains imperfectly understood; Joyce said he expected his readers to spend their lives on his book. It will probably remain a book for the minority, but it will always be loved by that minority. Since its publication it has had a great effect on many serious writers, as well as providing a new technique of word distortion and word creation for writers of advertisements.

After the fall of France in World War II (1940), Joyce took his family back to Zürich, where he died on Jan. 13, 1941, still disappointed with teh reception given to his last book. He would be pleased to know that, of the two periodicals now dealing with his work, one is entirely devoted to “Finnegans Wake”.

In dezelfde periode als die Sounday van de KRO ontstond de samenwerking tussen Klaus Schöning van de WDR en John Cage. In de nu volgende inleiding op het hoorspel hoort u er meer over.

In “Bronze by Gold: The Music of Joyce” onder redactie van Sebastian D.G. Knowles wordt zeer uitvoerig ingegaan op de fascinatie van Cage voor “Finnegans Wake”, met een heldere analyse van zijn compositie. Hieruit dit citaat:

Cage’ political, philosophical, and aesthetic use of Joyce’s work within his own reaches its apex in the work Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wke (1979), which combines the „Writing for the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake” (1977) with a collage of sounds suggested by Joyce’s work. Commissioned by Klaus Schöning of West German Radio, Roaratorio takes to its logical extreme Cage’s fascination with juxtaposition of sounds, Joyce, and the musical possibilities of words. Schöning suggested that Cage compose a „soundtrack” to accompany a reading of his „Writing for the Second Time”, and the result drew upon his desire to treat language, as had some of the Italian Futurists and the artist Kurt Schwitters, simply as sounds collage pieces. Roaratorio – which takes its name from Finnegans Wake (FW, 41.28) – juxtaposes Cage’s hour-long reading of his second „Writing Through” with a panoply of other sounds, including the music of six Celtic musicians playing a variety of traditional melodies, and sixty-two tracks of environmental sounds recorded at as many of the geographical locations mentioned in the Wake, in Ireland and throughout the world, as Cage could manage through his own travels and the help of radio stations and universities in many countries. The resulting version of Roaratorio created at the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique / Musique (IRCAM) in Paris, and broadcast widely in Europe and America, draws upon over a thousand sounds recorded at over a thousand places, which were determined by using Louis Mink’s A Finnegans Wake Gazetteer. The environmental sounds are mixed according to chance operations, according to Cage’s schema, against the Celtic musicians and Cage’s speaking voice, and are placed within the hour-long work in proportion to the place within the Wake where the cited location appears.

Nu het hoorspel.

Productie: WDR- SDR – KRO (1979)
De opname stamt van een uitzending door de Südwestfunk (18 augustus 1988), is in mono op tape opgenomen, gedigitaliseerd door Wim Fromberg. Mogelijk is een uitgave op CD beschikbaar. Indertijd heeft de uitgeverij Athenäum dit werk al eens uitgebracht op een MC.

Uitgelichte foto: James Joyce – Roger Viollet/AFP/Getty

Een gedachte over “Cage en Finnegans Wake

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