In Review: Waywords and Meansigns, Recreating Finnegans Wake (In Its Whole Wholume)


We write to waste no words, suspended in a tremor diffused from hours of listening to three chapters of Finnegans Wake in aural form. The project in reference, Waywords and Meansigns, asked of seventeen musicians to compose a select chapter of the novel as a singular form merging the language of James Joyce and music.

In our first encounter Mr. Barry Smolin and the Double Naught Spy Car encourage a entrance to the text that breathes the sharp perfumes of living, nibbling at us–a weird and engulfing warmth that uplifts and sours at once. The obscurity of Joyce is relieved by music. It develops, for the listener, a system of understanding the text that, in reading alone, cannot emerge. It’s a decadence, a nagging, a lashing against the ocular. Like a whole mountain opening itself and we flocking toward it. A moan that just keeps coming, a future cry, cuffing the listener to vibrations of what lives there between language and sound. A nebulous certainty where immensities are actual. True here, in Mr. Smolin’s composition and the others, is an absence of fear. The text a nourishment to sound in the way a stone drifts downstream.

Our second encounter, the work of author Brian Hall and composer Mary Lorson, asserts a promiscuity of the text that sharpens and glows as if before listening we were unmade. The cancelling, or binding of the text and composition, affirms for the listener the peculiar fact of simply being together. Such is true of light and long shadows, sweat and the heat to cause it, or snow that falls accepted first by the dirt. The cleaving of this composition is what inspires its value, embracing the distinct separateness of language and sound, as if the listener were set within in a tumbler where magnetism and reflection, too, have their own outlines and curves. And, us this center, we can speed at the not imaginary wilderness of Joyce’s pronging. That is, the invisible music that swarms us.

We ready for our third encounter, a composition by Steve Gregoropoulos, and are met with an eruption of voice and piano accompaniment. And then, strings enter, the text lifts from the page, and voices turn to a mumbling choir. A transmutation occurs: jazz lines sung by the brass, the kit becoming a present drunkenness. This interruption rages against itself, rubbing out a discomfort, the spoken swaggering above like a tired priest reciting a hymnal. The electronics make themselves present, synths sing, a bass grooves under and along with the kit, adding darkness to the natural acoustic sounds. In part, where the rock jams envelop, the composition is reminiscent of Patti Smith’s “Horses”. Mr. Gregoropoulos’ composition commands an intent that achieves a natural congruence with Joyce . In feeling what lives, he recognizes the sheer knowingness that, as in guiding an orchestra, we are all of the same thread. The composition, like a wave, enhances language and sound in the instant it becomes necessary. The improvisational nature births a wonderment of his choices of composition, and, who knows, perhaps what we are hearing is Joyce of different body in an other time.

Are we all just babbles or is there something more?

Mr. Barry Smolin & Double Naught Spy Car:

Brian Hall & Mary Lorson [Listen here]:

Steve Gregoropoulos:

[Listen to the project in its entirety here.]

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