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Many have called Ulysses the greatest novel of the 20th Century, but that masterpiece isn't confined to just literature. In the novel one can find an intricate web of connections with other disciplines such as music, visual art, Greek mythology, and history. For instance James Joyce was an accomplished singer, and Ulysses alludes to many songs such as "The Lost Chord," "Shall I Wear a White Rose?," and "The Croppy Boy."
Joyce's oeuvre has inspired hundreds (if not thousands) of writers over the decades, and every year dozens of Bloomsday readings happen
When it comes to music inspired by Joyce's work, John Cage's Roaratorio stands out as a remarkable musical exploration of Finnegans Wake. Joyce's book of love poems entitled Chamber Music provided the inspiration for Chamber Music (James Joyce), which critic David Bianculli called an "album of diverse music that ranges from traditional folk to ethereal electronica to pop." Chamber Music (James Joyce)'s contributors included Lee Ranaldo, Jessica Bailiff, Lee Ranaldo, and Bardo Pond.
Joyce worked a stunning array of innovative writing techniques into Ulysses, such as stream of consciousness and collage. A century ago the "new media" included film, the phonograph, and print collage techniques. Today new media includes twitter, telematics, digital collage in audio and video, and new programs and platforms that are continually proliferating. Last year 11ysses.wordpress.com started; its website includes the pithy tag line "Ulysses meets twitter." "Bloomsday 2012 & Ulysses' 90th" will include participation by people involved with 11ysses.wordpress.com and Cellphonia. In what other creative ways can technology be used to explore Ulysses? I look forward to finding out.
It is intriguing to consider how interdisciplinary connections with Joyce's work manifest themselves. For example, Irish artist Danny McCarthy created One Hundred Bottle for James Joyce, a performance and installation project for which 100 whiskey bottles were tossed into the River Liffey -- as part of the Open Air Show of Irish Sculpture (OASIS).
Why bottles in the River Liffey? "I love the idea of using the river as a source of the piece, and an initial inspiration was something that Joyce said -- that Ulysses would keep the professors busy for centuries. I wanted a piece that would be never ending as such, because I’ve never expected to get one hundred replies back to the hundred
from "One Hundred Bottles for James Joyce"
photo credit: Danny McCarthy
Did McCarthy get responses from anyone who retrieved bottles out of the water? "I got replies very very quickly after it happened, obviously from around Dublin Bay. Then one came from Howth, and eventually about six months later I got one from Wales," McCarthy said. Like the River Liffey, Ulysses is a powerful force. Its current can carry the imagination along a journey -- past tributaries toward an ocean of disciplines and artistic expressions. Once you immerse yourself into the river, you might be surprised to find out where that river takes you.
--- by Dan Godston