The Works of James Joyce

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After 22 years it's yes, yes, yes to Kate Bush and Molly Bloom


IN A move described as “remarkable” by Joycean scholars, the singer Kate Bush has said she has been given permission to use Molly Bloom’s famous soliloquy from Ulysses in a song to be released next month.

The Joyce estate, whose main trustee is the writer’s grandson Stephen Joyce, are notoriously protective of the writer’s work and have brought numerous lawsuits against scholars and artists attempting to quote from the writer’s work.

Kate Bush, whose mother is from Co Waterford, originally approached the Joyce estate in 1989 seeking permission to use extracts from Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in a song called The Sensual World. When denied permission the singer wrote her own lyrics to the song but has spent the last 22 years trying to get the Joyce estate to change their mind.

“Originally when I wrote the song The Sensual World I had used text from the end of Ulysses but was disappointed not to receive permission,” said the singer.

“But when I came to work on this current project I though I would ask for permission again and this time they said yes. The song has now been retitled Flower of the Mountain and I am delighted that I have had the chance to fulfil my original concept.”

Bush – one of the foremost musical artists of her generation – was first struck by the power and potency of Bloom’s soliloquy when she heard actor Siobhán McKenna reading it.

“Because I couldn’t get permission the lyrics I wrote to The Sensual World had Molly Bloom stepping out of the book into the real world and having these impressions of sensuality,” said Bush in a 1989 interview.

“When I heard Siobhán McKenna read it I thought: ‘My God! This is extraordinary, what a piece of writing!’ It’s a very unusual train of thought.”

Bush’s album will contain Flower Of The Mountain and sees the singer revisit two previous albums and record new versions of the songs. It will be released on May 13th.

It is believed to be the first time Joyce’s work has been used in a popular music song. Perhaps one of the reasons the estate has given permission for Bloom’s words to be used is because the copyright on Joyce’s literary work expires in 2012.

Under EU law, copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death.


(c) Irish Times 5/4/2011

ARTS James Joyce in Words and Song, with David Norris

High notes in James Joyce celebrated

On Friday night last, Westport’s classical music society, the Classical Covies, held an evening with a distinctly Joycean flavour in the Wyatt Hotel, Westport. Happily, that did not mean dining on ‘nutty gizzards’, ‘mutton kidneys’ or any of the other kinds of offal so loved by Leopold Bloom.
No, it was ‘James Joyce in Words and Song’, with three highly accomplished musicians – soprano Virginia Kerr, baritone Gavan Ring and pianist Una Hunt. In what was a special flourish of interest (and quite the coup for the Classical Covies), the musicians performances were embellished by fascinating introductions and commentary from visiting Joyce scholar Senator David Norris.
A music lover and a fine singer himself, James Joyce loved all kinds of music, and references to a myriad of musical styles and pieces are peppered througout his work. As Senator Norris said, “James Joyce was not a musical snob; everything was grist to his mill.”
Accordingly, the night’s eclectic line-up of songs included everything from Mozart’s ‘La ci darem la mano’ to Thomas Moore’s ‘Oh! Ye Dead’ (which Senator Norris explained gave Joyce the idea for his short story ‘The Dead’ in ‘The Dubliners’) to ‘Those Lovely Seaside Girls’ by Harry B Norris (‘no relation’, according to the evening’s MC). The latter was theatrically rendered by Gavan Ring, who gamely donned a red-and-white candy-striped blazer and straw hat, and used a cane to great effect.
Virginia Kerr’s performance of ‘Un bel di’, from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, was another highlight in an evening of many. Introducing the song, Senator Norris had the audience in stitches with his Joyce-related story. One of Joyce’s letters to Nora reveal that the couple were at odds when it came to musical appreciation.  “Joyce loved opera … and while in Trieste, Italy, he took Nora Barnacle to one of the very first performances of Madame Butterfly … He was characteristically disappointed in her reaction.”
Senator Norris explained his sympathies were divided between Joyce and Nora on this occasion, as 'poor Nora' had likely spent the day ‘washing the kids, making the dinner, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, dealing with the creditors and so on’ and finally dragged herself into bed, only to be confronted with a husband, home from the pub, climbing into bed and ranting about opera and his own genius. “No wonder she didn’t want to hear it!” the senator quipped.
Senator Norris regaled the audience with many other anecdotes, insights and tangental musings too. He talked about how Joyce was known to have a fine singing voice and could have been ‘the next John McCormack’. Indeed, he once competed against McCormack in a singing competition. Joyce could not sight read music, however, and was awarded a bronze medal. Joyce claimed to have been so disgusted that he threw the medal in the Liffey. But “Joyce was telling a little lie there,” Senator Norris revealed. The coin remained in the family, passing to his nephew, also called James Joyce, and eventually turning up in an auction house in Dublin, where Norris himself had the pleasure of holding it.
In his introduction to ‘Farewell to Thee, you Spanish Ladies’, the Joyce scholar reminded the audience that Joyce gave Molly Bloom a Spanish heritage – and told a story of how Nora Barnacle, when was asked if Molly was modelled on her, retorted “Not at all – she’s much fatter than me!”
All too quickly the night drew to a close, but the Joyce lovers gathered left happily digesting many new morsels about the author and new perspectives on his work, while the previously uninitiated left with an appetite to start picking and testing – and who knows, maybe even willing to take a whole bite.

(c) Ciara Moynihan/Mayo News 2011

Kate Bush delight at 'Ulysses' song

Kate Bush has been given the go-ahead to use the text of James Joyce's Ulysses for a song, more than 20 years after asking.

The reclusive singer, who next month returns with her first album for six years, was originally prevented from using the Irish writer's words, causing her to write a new lyric to the track.

But now she has been able to rework the song after finally being granted permission.

Kate had wanted to use the words of character Molly Bloom from Ulysses, which she had set to music.

She said: "When I asked for permission to use the text I was refused, which was disappointing. I then wrote my own lyrics for the song although I felt that the original idea had been more interesting. Well, I'm not James Joyce am I?"

The track went on to be retitled The Sensual World, the title track of her 1989 album. She has now re-recorded the song for Director's Cut, a collection of older songs which have been revamped and re-recorded.

Kate said: "When I came to work on this project I thought I would ask for permission again and this time they said yes. It is now re-titled Flower Of the Mountain and I am delighted that I have had the chance to fulfil the original concept".

The 52-year-old singer has also enlisted her son as a vocalist on her new single Deeper Understanding which was premiered today.

Kate - who largely disappeared from public view to bring up her son Albert - has included him as the voice of a computer program on the song.

Director's Cut is released on May 16.


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