Home > Uncategorized > Music and Song in Circe Part II

Music and Song in Circe Part II

Tuesday, November 3, 2009; 11:39 pm Leave a comment Go to comments

Performance: 11111

Opera: 11111111111

Song: 11111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111

Music: 11111

Composer: 11111

Instrument(s): 1 (plus numerous minor references)

As per usual, and mostly just out of habit, my counting system is above. Musemathematics at its finest. Nearly all of the songs referenced in Circe follow the general structure of the episode in that they draw on previous occurrences and thoughts experienced by either Bloom or Stephen.

Notably, the frequency of music or song references was not quite as lacking as I had originally stated on Monday. A quick glance at my post for episodes 10-12 revealed more or less the same amount of occurrences (over the course of roughly 100 pages) as Circe, which although it is 50 or so pages longer, was not a considerable difference.

Oddly enough, in this confusing and lengthy episode, the sentiments expressed in the music seem to accurately echo the themes or experiences of the characters, perhaps to a higher degree than in earlier episodes. A conversation between Virag and Bloom about choosing women, for instance, references John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (How happy could you be with either, 15.2351), reflects both Bloom’s lacking sexuality and his desire for such acts (Gifford 493).

A little bit of research on the pianola (first mentioned at 15.1991) yielded some interesting results. According the Oxford English Dictionary, it was an extremely recent device: “The prototype of the piano-playing device which came to be known as the pianola was constructed in Detroit in 1895 by Edwin Scott Votey (1856-1931).” (http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50178470?single=1&query_type=word&queryword=pianola&first=1&max_to_show=10) Why then, would it show up in the red light district of Dublin only nine years later? That aside, the Pianola raises some interesting questions with regard to some of my earlier posts. The concept of detachment from the authentic or complete performance of something and what can be captured on a page (a play, sheet music, etc.) is not relevant here; the Pianola is both script and performance (as is the gramophone for that matter).

Another interesting feature of the episode is the interior/exterior concepts, which are strikingly similar to the beach/temperance meeting of Nausicaa. The gramophone playing “The Holy City” outside stands in stark contrast to the occurrences within the building, yet both are at hand in the presentation of the scene.

15.2664-67: As the Gifford points out, Joyce cites this verse as the one most quoted by his father (199). This further cements the idea of the household as a place of song, and perhaps as the place of strictly Irish song, as several secondary sources I’ve read have indicated. The fact that no such text has been found could imply a few different things: the obscure nature of household songs or perhaps that Joyce’s father actually wrote a few songs himself. Whatever the case may be, this passage certainly stood out.

15.400ish: The re-appearance of “My Girl’s A Yorkshire Girl” represented roughly ten of the fifty or so song references in Circe. The numerous lovers in the song obviously draw a parallel between Bloom and, well, everyone else. The “girl” is of course married (Molly), though neither of her two other lovers seem to be aware of this until they attempt to go to her cottage (similar of course to Boylan).

I mentioned in my last post that I would have more on the abundance of music and noise on page 422. However, I don’t really know what to make of it other than framing it as some kind of coincidence or maybe as a climax of the noise and and sound of the city in general.

As a quick note, the concept of empty fifths is described here: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_fifth) under the heading “Use in harmony.” It’s a fairly basic description and part of it is not applicable, but I figured I’d include it in case anyone was curious. Somehow I also managed to overlook Blamires’ comments on this concept, which are on pages 168-169.

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