htyh

James Joyce's "Chamber Music"

Points of interest

Essays

To read the essay '"I Have Left My Book": Setting Joyce’s Chamber Music Lyrics to Music' please click here

To read the essay 'Thinking in Circles: Music and Cyclical Form in Joyce's Chamber Music' please click here

Aphorisms and Quotations

The following are unreferenced points of interest, included here with the intention of stimulating discussion and potential areas of inquiry.

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Jim should have stuck to music instead of bothering with writing.
Nora Barnacle

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If Musique and sweet Poetrie agree
As they must needs (the Sister and the Brother)
Then must the Love be great, twixt thee and mee,
Because thou lov’st the one, and I the other.
Richard Barnfield, ‘Sonnet 1 – In Praise of Musique and Poetrie’ (1598)

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It may be noted … that in this evolution of the appearance of fixed written text, narrative song is on the whole replaced by lyric song; the more literate a society, the fuller the replacement. A logic suggests itself here. With literacy, the overarching structures of oral narrative are no longer necessary to specify what will be said when; and as they are no longer relied on they become less available. The songwriter loses the challenge that faced the oral poet of managing time with his mind alone. Relying on the crutch of a text, he gives up the craft of patterning a story. Narrative can be planned out on paper now in prose or poetry. But in song the time-independent patterns of the music pull the mind away from linear continuity, and failing the old readiness to produce or apprehend the larger patterns through many stanzas, the songwriter moves toward the voicing of one moment’s state of feeling that is lyric.
Mark W. Booth, Oral Ballad’, from The Experience of Song

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My lords, you must know that I am not content with the Courtier unless he be also a musician and unless, besides understanding and being able to read notes, he can play upon divers instruments. For if we consider rightly, there is to be found no rest from toil or medicine for the troubled spirit more becoming and praiseworthy in time of leisure, than this; and especially in courts, where besides the relief from tedium that music affords us all, many things are done to please the ladies, whose tender and gentle spirit is easily penetrated by harmony and filled with sweetness. Thus it is no marvel that in both ancient and modern times they have always been inclined to favour musicians, and have found refreshing spiritual food in music. 
Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier (1528)

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Until eighteen years old everyone writes poems. After that only two categories of people continue to do so: the poets and the idiots.
Benedetto Croce

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As neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least use to man in reference to his daily habits of life, they must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed.
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)

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The lyrical form is in fact the simplest verbal vesture of an instant of emotion, a rhythmical cry as ages ago cheered on the man who pulled at the oar or dragged stones up a slope. He who utters is more conscious of the instant of emotion than of himself as feeling emotion.
Stephen Dedalus (James Joyce), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

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Music was invented to confirm human loneliness.
Lawrence Durrell

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The central hypothesis … is that the Romantic song cycle as a genre is essentially literary, consisting of a group of lyrical texts that are joined together in some way, whether by the intention of the author or not, that constitutes a coherent structure to which all the individual poems are subordinate. The question of how these poems are related to the whole is primarily and necessarily a literary question. Yet the song cycle as a work of music, composed for the most part for a single voice with piano accompaniment, translates the sequence of individual poems, whether or not the poems as cycle were selected and arranged by the composer, into an essentially musical form, which demands competence in that medium both for performance by a singer with an accompanist and also for the reception and interpretation by an audience.
Cyrus Hamlin, ‘The Romantic Song Cycle as Literary Genre’

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The irreducible denominator of all l. poetry … [comprises] those elements which it shares with the musical forms that produced it. Although l. poetry is not music, it is representative of music in its sound patterns, basing its meter and rhyme on the regular linear measure of the song; or, more remotely, it employs cadence and consonance to approximate the tonal variation of a chant or intonation. Thus the l. retains a structural or substantive evidence of its melodic origins, and this factor serves as the categorical principle of poetic lyricism.
James William Johnson, 'Lyric’ in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

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I think you are in love with me, are you not? I like to think of you reading my verses (though it took you five years to find them out). When I wrote them I was a strange lonely boy, walking about by myself at night and thinking that some day a girl would love me. But I never could speak to the girls I used to meet at houses. Their false manners checked me at once. Then you came to me. You were not in a sense the girl for whom I had dreamed and written the verses you find now so enchanting. She was perhaps (as I saw in my imagination) a girl fashioned into a curious grave beauty by the culture of generations before her, the woman for whom I wrote poems like ‘Gentle lady’ or ‘Thou leanest to the shell of night’. But then I saw that the beauty of your soul outshone that of my verses. There was something in you higher than anything I had put into them. And so for this reason the book of verses is for you. It holds the desire of my youth, and you, darling, were the fulfilment of that desire.
James Joyce, Letter to Nora Barnacle, 21 August 1909

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A page of A Little Cloud gives me more pleasure than all my verses.
James Joyce

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We now romp through a period of pure lyricism of shamebred music (technologically, let me say, the appealing entry of this subject on a fool chest of vialds is plumply pudding the carp before doevre hors) evidenced by such words in distress as I cream for thee, Sweet Margareen, and the more hopeful O Margareen! O Margareena! Still in the bowl is left a lump of gold!
James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

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In the course of a fortnight I saw him off and on in my home. He himself began to be aware of the misunderstanding. The young girl whom he adored had become almost a burden to him; and yet she was his darling, the only woman he had even loved, the only one he would ever love. On the other hand, nevertheless, he did not love her, he merely longed for her. For all this, a striking change was wrought in him. There was awakened in him a poetical productivity upon a scale which I had never thought possible. Then I easily comprehended the situation. The young girl was not his love, she was the occasion of awakening the primitive poetic talent within him and making him a poet. Therefore he could love only her, could never forget her, never wish to love anyone else; and yet he was forever only longing for her. She was drawn into his very nature as a part of it, the remembrance of her was ever fresh. She had meant much to him, she had made him a poet, and thereby she had signed her own death warrant.
Søren Kierkegaard, Repetition: An Essay in Experimental Psychology

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Songfulness is a fusion of vocal and musical utterance judged to be both pleasurable and suitable independent of verbal content; it is the positive quality of singing-in-itself: just singing ... Songfulness is one of those aesthetic qualities that seem to invite immediate recognition even while they elude definition; its indefinability is part of its character. The one who hears it may not be able to account for it, or to say for sure whether it is more an attribute of the music (which seems made for the voice) or of the performance (which saturates the music with voice), or even of the ear that hears it, but the quality nonetheless seems utterly unmistakable. There is thus … a sense of immediate intimate contact between the listener and the subject behind the voice.
Lawrence Kramer, 'Beyond Words and Music: An Essay on Songfulness'

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The most successful songs are those that are not always sung. They are the songs that have so absorbed their own words that their melody alone can substitute for the original union of words and music. They are the songs that have so permeated their now expendable words that the words can scarcely be spoken or written or even thought without our hearing the music in the mind’s ear. Such songs act culturally via a double process of condensation, a term worth taking in its Freudian as well as its common sense: Words plus music condense to music alone, and the music condenses to a short phrase or two, to which a similarly condensed verbal phrase attaches without being uttered.
Lawrence Kramer, Expression and Truth

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[Lyric] poetry is dependent on the spirit of music to the same degree that music itself, in its absolute sovereignty, is independent of either image or concept, though it may tolerate both. The poet cannot tell us anything that was not already contained, with a most universal validity, in such music as prompted him to his figurative discourse. The cosmic symbolism of music resists any adequate treatment by language, for the simple reason that music, in referring to primordial contradiction and pain, symbolizes a sphere which is both earlier than appearance and beyond it. Once we set it over against music, all appearance becomes a mere analogy. So it happens that language, the organ and symbol of appearance, can never succeed in bringing the innermost core of music to the surface. Whenever it engages in the imitation of music, language remains in purely superficial contact with it, and no amount of poetic eloquence will carry us a step closer to the essential secret of that art.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

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After dreaming of gentle, well-bred girls with cool hands ... Joyce unhesitatingly chose as his life's partner a tough, unpolished, rootless, provincial girl unburdened by family, a Catholic girl without a Catholic conscience.
Brenda Maddox

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All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music.
Walter Pater

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The lonely return to loneliness, the divine to divinity.
Plotinus, Enneads

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By imitating the inflections of the voice, melody expresses plaints, cries of suffering or joy, threats, moans; all the vocal signs of the passions fall within its province. It imitates the accents of [various] languages as well as the idiomatic expressions commonly associated in each one of them with given movements of the soul … This is where musical imitation acquires its power, and song its hold on sensitive hearts.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 'Essay on the Origin of Languages’

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With me emotion is at the beginning without clear and definite ideas; those ideas do not arise until later on. A certain musical disposition of mind comes first, and after follows the poetical idea.
Friedrich Schiller

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The words are and remain for the music a foreign addition, of subordinate value, for the effect of the tones is incomparably more powerful, more infallible, and quicker than that of words. Therefore, if words become incorporated in music, they must yet assume an entirely subordinate position, and adapt themselves completely to it.
Arthur Schopenhauer

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Is it not strange that sheeps’ guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies?
William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

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I am never merry when I hear sweet music.
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

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The work which you have actually done is very remarkable for a man of your age who has lived away from the vital intellectual centres. Your technique in verse is very much better than the technique of any young Dublin man I have met during my time. It might have been the work of a young man who has lived in an Oxford literary set. However men have started with as good promise as yours and have failed and men have started with less and have succeeded. The qualities that make a man succeed do not shew in his work, often for quite a long time. They are much less qualities of talent than qualities of character – faith (of this you have probably enough), patience, adaptability (without this one learns nothing), and a gift for growing by experience and this is perhaps rarest of all.
W.B. Yeats, Letter to James Joyce, November 1902

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