Friday, May 1, 2015

Waywords and Meansigns: A Journey into Finnegans Wake

Waywords and Meansigns: A Journey into Finnegans Wake

mix himself so at home mid the musik--FW, pg.437

Shortly after discovering the Waywords and Meansigns project, linked from a blog called tailored by Tom Jackson, I sent an email expressing my interest in contributing to the musical ceremony.

I received a swift reply, informing me that the first edition of the unabridged Finnegans Wake has been delegated to the early contributors, but, due to such a positive and large interest in the project a second full edition is underway, and that I would be welcome to work on a chapter. 

I was given the choice of 3 chapters, and picked chapter 2 of book III (pages 429-473). My deadline was mid' June 2015, I made a slow start, recording perhaps 4 pages in 4 weeks, while making notes and working the musical ideas through my minds eye. The second word of the opening paragraph "Jaun" sent me on a brief trip around the inside of my mouth until I discovered "YAWN" not "JAYUN" and laughed out loud at the hidden, perfect fitting name of the dreamer, carried about this whole chapter like a sleeping baby in a Pelican's beak.

Right around the Spring Equinox I received a surprise email from the project Illuminati, informing me that a space had opened up in the first edition for the chapter I was working on, and if I would like to take the spot, and...could I get the chapter completed by April 15th (my 39th Birthday). I said yes, of course, yes yes, and quickly set about making a plan for getting the 40 pages recorded, and busy creating some new music. 

Thankfully, the reading itself was boosted immeasurably by support, encouragement and spirited performance by my friend, actor, comedian, scholar: William Sutton. In roughly 3 recording sessions held between William's kitchen, and my front room, here in Amsterdam, we managed to get a good half of our assigned chapter in the bag. These recordings feature various street traffic, the occasional siren, the pitter-patter of a small doggies footsteps on a linoleum floor, giggles from William's son Liam, and his partner Sassy, the crinkle of paper, the ping-ding and whoosh of street-trams passing.

The pages were coming in around the 3 minute 40 mark, so bearing that in mind I started working on some percussion tracks and guitar jams of equal length. As the chapter grows I generally move from single brushes on snare drum, and brushes on cymbal tracks, to a faster paced rhythm track, introducing the kick drum and some recordings made at full drum-kit. 

I recorded some samples of Gregorian Chanting, from vinyl, both backwards and forwards, plus some light scratching patterns using an early track by Sun Ra called 'dreaming' that I applied to the percussive template. Next I applied vinyl static to each page to give the impression of a phonograph recording "Lps. The keys too. Given!"--FW, pg. 628. Lastly I applied some other effects samples of ocean waves, water trickles, winds, fire and the sound of a typewriter, all strategically placed to echo associated parts of the text. 

On the 15th of April, my copilot and audio wingman in Amsterdam, Tim Egmond, managed to find time in the afternoon to re-stitch all the pages together into one long track (2h:38m) and apply some vital mastering. And that's what happened, and that's what you hear here.

healing music, ay, and heart in hand of Shamrogueshire!--FW, pg. 472


laughing lazy at the sheep's lightning and turn a widamost ear dreamily to the drummling of snipers, hearing the wireless harps of sweet old Aerial and the mails across the nightrives (peepet! peepet!) and whippoor willy in the woody (moor park! moor park!) as peacefed as a philopotamus,--FW, pg. 449

There has been a hell of a lot of brilliant scholarship and commentary on Finnegans Wake, and I do not kid myself that I have much original thought on it. However, in collaboration with a large international group of Joyce heads, there seems to be something innovative and indeed new, about the Waywords and Meansigns project, a collaborative unabridged reading and musical interpretation of Finnegans Wake. 

For starters, most of the other FW projects are readings by a single narrator, such as the brilliant Patrick Healey, or a single group of performers in a single geographical location. Here we see a truly international fellowship of like minded individuals, each with a very different approach to the text, each seemingly forced into making a whole new style, since working the text of Finnegans Wake into the music, I suspect, stirs up such unique and poly-rhythmic patterns.

Finnegans Wake--in the age of hyper-intelligent search engines and textual analysis previously unimaginable--remains the literary equivalent of Mount Everest. Unsurpassed in its originality, inclusiveness and ability to remain relative to each generation of readers. Readers who become performers simply by the act of reading the interactive text. Acknowledged by many as a musical texts, FW does indeed create a cacophony of voices and sound effects, exploited and amplified in the new project and by all the musical minded Joyceans, weaving the dream together into whole cloth.

I would go so far as to say that this project ranks as a 21st century 'tale of the tribe' 21CTOTT. The Tale of the Tribe, to mean an epic poem, a modern verse epic poem, but one that includes history. An epic poem including history. Well, to my limited knowledge there are not many contenders for this title. Robert Anton Wilson might say that the two major literary giants who evolved the tale of the tribe into a single book, are James Joyce, with you know what, and Ezra Pound with his 50 year epic poem including history: The Cantos. 

RAW went further to define his own conception of the tale of the tribe, including other characters, not just literary figures, to include Giordano Bruno, Giambattista Vico, Nietzsche, Alfred Korzybski, W. B Yeats, Ernest Fenollosa, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon, Norbert Weiner, Marshall McLuhan, Orson Welles, and Pound and Joyce.

The punch line, from what I could gather, is that the new electrical hyper-connected global village and advanced information sharing culture may bring about a new renaissance in human evolution, due in part to new understandings--brought about by open source research tools, translation tools such as Wikipedia etc.--of some of the misunderstood innovators from past eras, often brushed off into the gutter by mainstream culture and academia. Yet, with these powerful new tools we can go back and look again at these once occluded works and begin sifting out the treasures that, RAW, and a few others, have suggested may hold the keys to a fairer, equal and fun future for all humanity. 

The tale of the tribe, among other things, shows how complicated and mixed up the origins of civilization and culture are. Digging beneath the surface of a single source, the task at hand seems to be managing to construct a foundation capable of holding such a massive synthesis. Not just an encyclopedia, but a journey through history, through the details and notes made by those who were there, primary source material, somehow re-jigged into a new form.

I may have no mind to lamagnage the forte bits like the pianage but you can't cadge me off the key. I've a voicical lilt too true. Nomario! And bemolly and jiesis! For I sport a whatyoumacormack in the latcher part of my throughers. And the lark that I let fly (olala!) is as cockful of funantics as it's tune to my fork. Naturale you might lower register me as diserecordant, but I'm athlone in the lillabilling of killarnies. That's flat.--FW, pg. 450

Waywords and Meansigns: A Journey into Finnegans Wake

Steve Fly 33.

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