Sunday, 22 January 2017

Waywords and Meansigns Strikes Again!

'It's all so simple. If anyone doesn't understand a passage, all he need do is read it aloud.'

Joyce to Claude Sykes (recalled in a 1954 interview with Richard Ellmann)

'It's often said Finnegans Wake is a book for the ear but it's also a book for the mouth. You'll never utter anything like it.'

Peter Quadrino (PQ) on the RAW Illuminations website

Wakeans owe a debt of gratitude to Waywords and Meansigns, Derek Pyle's project setting readings of Finnegans Wake to music.  It would be difficult enough to do this once, but Derek's done it twice!  The first edition was published on 4 May 2015 (the 76th anniversary of the Wake's publication), and the second on Joyce's 134th birthday last year.

To get a feel of the project, have a listen to Mr Smolin (Barry Smolin)  and Double Naught Spy Car's performance of the first page. Music and voice come together brilliantly in that mighty opening thunderclap, which will make you leap out of your seat.


When I met Derek in London last Bloomsday, before gatecrashing the James Joyce symposium, I was delighted to find that he has this thunderclap tattooed on his forearm.

In the first two editions, each chapter was assigned to a different reader and musician – a daunting undertaking for both. Derek has recently announced that Waywords and Meansigns will be setting the book to music for a third, and final time. But now, contributors 'are taking short passages of the Wake — a paragraph, a page, a few pages — to set to music. The result will be a mosaic of musical readings and performances, plus a few 'non-musical' readings for good measure.'

This is a lot easier for the reader/musician, but a much bigger task for Derek to co-ordinate.  There's a list of the contributors so far on the website, but they're still looking for new recordings. 

We invite you a record a passage of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake for Waywords and Meansigns.
While initially setting entire chapters of Finnegans Wake to music, we are now focused on short passages.
You can take a page or a few pages, and set it to music.
“Music” is defined loosely — we want to hear your voice through your ears, whatever that may sound like.
We are interested in contributions from all kinds of people — musicians, artists, poets, scholars, weirdos, passionate Wake-heads, those totally ignorant of the Wake, and anyone generally adventurous. “Here Comes Everybody” is our slogan, and we take that seriously.
A range of recording styles and methods is no problem.
Having released unabridged musical editions of Finnegans Wake in 2015 and 2016, 2017 will be our final large group release.
If you want more information or to get involved, contact Derek at

I've made a recording. Why don't you?

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