Monday, May 8, 2017

Monday Muse: 'Finnegans Wake' - Lit as Music

The internet almost seems to have been invented to assist
in understanding the Wake.
~ Derek Attridge, University of York

Art by Sara Jewell*

Can anything be more bizarre than an unabridged audiobook-musical adaptation of Finnegans Wake, the bane of literary-inclined high school and college students? Read on.

Initiated in 2014, the project Waywords and Meansigns has set to music for the third time James Joyce's 628-page Finnegans Wake (1939). Its laudable goals, given the (ahem) difficulty of the text, are "to make the novel more accessible to newcomers[,] and to create a version of the text that appeals to dedicated listeners, students, scholars, and Wake-obsessed people everywhere." Co-founded by Derek Pyle and Kelley Kipperman (she left Waywords in 2015), the project accommodates "everybody", according to its Website, including "those totally ignorant of the Wake, and anyone generally adventurous" enough to even consider making an individual submission. 

The first unabridged version, comprising 17 chapters and involving 17 musicians, premiered in 2015 on May 4, the 76th anniversary of the Wake's publication. The second edition, also in 17 chapters, came out in 2016, on February 2, James Joyce's birthday. The 2017 edition, released May 4, and the project's final large-group edition, features more than 100 musicians, readers, and artists from 15 countries. (Read the press release.)

Visitors to the project's Website can stream and download, as well as share, all audio for free. (Waywords and Meansigns is based in Canada, where the novel has public domain status. Audio is distributed via Creative Commons licensing.)


* The graphic at the head of the post is by Sara Jewell, the project's design and communications specialist.

Information About James Joyce and Finnegans Wake (Also see the page for Reading Resources.)

Waywords and Meansigns News (You can find reviews, interviews with Derek Pyle, track premieres, and other project information here.)

Waywords and Meansigns on FaceBook and Soundcloud

See a linearized edition of Finnegans Wake by Contemporary Literature Press.

Finnegans Wake at Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive

Read Allison Meier's feature article about the project at Hyperallergic: "Setting the Puzzling Language of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake to Music" (April 5, 2017).

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