Thursday, July 21, 2011

I - James Joyce

Strings in the earth and air
Make music sweet;
Strings by the river where
The willows meet.

There's music along the river
For Love wanders there,
Pale flowers on his mantle,
Dark leaves on his hair.

All softly playing,
With head to the music bent,
And fingers straying
Upon an instrument.

This poem, the first in Joyce's "Chamber Music" collection, is a wonderfully musical poem.  Being the first poem in a collection which, from the very title, is linked to music, its lyricism is unsurprising.  What I find most amazing, however, is the wealth of ways in which that lyricism may be interpreted.

I present for you, the Luciano Berio setting of Joyce's "Chamber Music."

I very much enjoy this setting, for it maintains an element of lyricism and melody while I feel, effectively exploring the somewhat melancholic depiction of love as an introverted, shy musician by a river.  Pale flowers, dark leaves, this imagery, along with the depiction of Love as "bent" and somewhat absorbed in his music, leaves the impression that Joyce was feeling the sting of Love, rather than its balm.  Berio conveys this through the texture and intervalic qualities of his work, though, this being a poetry blog, I will avoid an extensive discussion of musical techniques.  That, and I do not want to do all the work of analysis on this piece at the moment.  I most certainly will be doing an in depth analysis of this poem in the coming months, but that will be for my own project of setting the entirety of "Chamber Music" to music in the form of a song cycle.

So all my blathering aside, enjoy the beautiful music and ponder the text, much as I imagine Joyce's image of Love would.

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