Joyce, Takemitsu, Finnegans Wake

Toru Takemitsu wrote a number of pieces inspired by Finnegans Wake, including “riverrun” for piano and orcestra, and the string quartet “a way a lone” which are the words which begin the final sentence “A way a lone a last a loved a long the” which reconnects to the opening “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.”

I first came across Takemitsu’s music because of my interest in Joyce and Finnegans Wake at university, but despite many claims about the musical language employed by Takemitsu, I don’t find it particularly evocative of the half-dream world of Joyce’s virtually incomprehensible book.

Much closer, I think, is music such as Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux, where bird calls are used in a similar way to the multiplicity of rivers’ names in the “Anna Livia Plurabella” section (as one example); on the surface, the effect is literally dazzling, but also able to invoke much deeper layers of meaning.

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One Response to “Joyce, Takemitsu, Finnegans Wake”

  1. The Catalogue and the Wake as potential soulmates? Intriguing…

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