Thema (Omaggio a Joyce)


Turnabout, 1967. Cover art by Ventilla.

Regular readers will know that Bloomsday is one of the few persistent observances here, although I think I’ve missed a couple of them since the tradition began in 2006. This year is the centenary of the publication of James Joyce’s Big Blue Book but I was doubtful I’d be able to provide a suitable Joyce-related novelty this time. Doubtful, that is, until I remembered this electro-acoustic composition by Luciano Berio which I’m surprised to find I’ve not linked to before despite having had a copy of Electronic Music III for many years.

Thema (Omaggio a Joyce) (1958) takes a reading of the prelude of the “Sirens” chapter of Ulysses as its raw material, the reading being performed by singer Cathy Berberian. The prelude is often described as a written equivalent of an orchestra tuning up, with Joyce listing some of the euphonious or onomatopoeic words from the music-themed chapter before the chapter itself begins. It’s one of the more unusual parts of the novel which in its emphasis on the sounds of words rather than their meaning looks forward to the verbal and auditory pyrotechnics of Finnegans Wake. After Berberian has read the text Berio subjects the recording to a variety of manipulations. Or that’s what happens on the original recording… The examples on YouTube are all the later versions which Berio regarded as definitive even though they’re missing the two minutes of reading that precede the manipulations. There is one video that includes the complete recording, however, where it provides the score for a dance piece by Xiao-Xuan Yang Dancigers. I included the “Sirens” extract in the very first Bloomsday post so if you require a libretto for all of this, here it is.

Weekend links 611


Let The Power Fall (1981) by Robert Fripp. A postcard included with the original vinyl release of the Let The Power Fall album.

Exposures 1977–1983 is the title of another wallet-busting CD/DVD/blu-ray box which will be released by DGM at the end of May. Unlike the previous King Crimson sets this one will be devoted to Robert Fripp’s first run of solo releases, covering the albums that emerged from the artistic campaign he described at the time as “The Drive to 1981”: Exposure (1979), God Save The Queen/Under Heavy Manners (1980), The League Of Gentlemen (1981), and Let The Power Fall (1981). If you’re as interested as I am in this period of Fripp’s career then this is all very exciting. Exposure has been reissued several times over the years, and exists in three different “editions” featuring alternate mixes and song variations, but the other albums have been unavailable in any form for decades, possibly as a result of the turmoil caused by the mismanagement and eventual collapse of the EG label. In addition to the reissues the box will include live recordings, a League Of Gentlemen Peel session plus a substantial quantity of Frippertronics material, including the loops that were recorded for Eno & Byrne’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. Fripp retained a credit for his contribution to Regiment but the results are so far down in the mix that they’re easy to miss. Related: The Drive to 1981: Robert Fripp’s Art-Rock Classic Exposure.

• Galerie Georges-Philippe & Nathalie Valloisin, Paris, is currently creeping out visitors to Strange Aeons—We will meet you there, an exhibition by Peybak (Peyman Barabadi and Babak Alebrahim Dehkordi) that borrows its title from HP Lovecraft and includes a number of creatures, “neither embryos nor chimeras”, which may be found prostrate and breathing on the gallery floor.

• New music: Sub Zero, in which Kevin Richard Martin returns to the subterranean/subaqueous/subarctic zones he charted on his Isolationism and Driftworks compilations in the 1990s; plus The Carrier by Large Plants, an album of “psych rock belters” coming soon on the Ghost Box label.

• Science fiction as revolution: Joe Banks talks to Iain McIntyre, co-editor of Dangerous Visions and New Worlds—Radical Science Fiction, 1950–1985, about the flourishing of the New Wave of SF in the 1960s and 70s.

• “We know from his letters that Joyce sent a Greek flag to Nutting for him to colour-match. So, he was aiming for ‘Greek’ blue.” It’s that book again. Cleo Hanaway-Oakley on Ulysses, blindness and blue.

• Intermittent Eyeball Fodder: More visual delights gathered by S. Elizabeth.

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Nicholas.

• Galerie Dennis Cooper presents…Liz Larner.

Let The Power Fall (1971) by Max Romeo | Minor Man (1981) by The League Of Gentlemen ft. Danielle Dax | Heptaparapashinokh (1981) by The League Of Gentlemen

Weekend links 609


Cover of Tom Veitch Magazine #1 (1970).

• RIP Tom Veitch, a writer with whom I almost created a comic-book series in the 1990s. Things didn’t work out for a variety of reasons but we had some good conversations. All the news notices focus on his writing for comics, a career which ranged from angry, political strips with Greg Irons to typical franchise fare. But he had short stories published in New Worlds magazine when it was at its peak under Michael Moorcock’s editorship, and in Quark, a short-lived paperback magazine edited by Samuel Delany & Marilyn Hacker. Veitch was also among the first 35 contributors to John Giorno’s Dial-a-Poem service when it launched in 1968, part of a select group that included John Ashbery, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Related: An interview with Tom Veitch on William Burroughs at Reality Studio.

• “I won’t deny that I thought very much about a post punk influence on it. Everybody knows that I love post punk, but I didn’t want to copy anybody.” Robert Hampson talking to Jonathan Selzer about the return of Loop.

• “What Joyce and Eliot, Ulysses and The Waste Land, had in common was a showiness, an overt ambition as well as a magpie approach to literature as assemblage.” John Self on the year 1922, “literature’s year zero”.

• At Spoon & Tamago: All of Japan’s 47 prefectures captured in expressive typography.

• At Public Domain Review: Composition (1905) by Arthur Wesley Dow, a book for art students influenced by the example of Japanese prints.

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on the unending attempts to solve The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

• Mixes of the week: Fact Mix 846 by Ehua, and Soylent Green – No Escape by The Ephemeral Man.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Matthew Suss presents…Joseph Cornell Day.

• At Bandcamp: A guide to Alvin Lucier.

Loop The Loop (1980) by Young Marble Giants | Q-Loop (1995) by Basic Channel | Loop-Loop (1996) by Michael Rother

Weekend links 607


Jerry (1931) by Paul Cadmus.

• “I wanted to photograph naked young men as opulently and as attentively as those professional ladies appearing in Playboy-type magazines.” RIP James Bidgood, photographer and director of no-budget gay-porn classic Pink Narcissus. Also in the obituary notices this week: Monica Vitti and John Appleton, composer of electronic music and inventor of the Synclavier sampling keyboard.

• “…the Sola Busca deck is limited in its use for divinatory purposes today, and yet, since its enigmatic imagery irresistibly invites decoding, the deck nonetheless beckons twenty-first century cartomancers into a game of high imagination.” Kevin Dann on the mysteries of the world’s oldest complete Tarot deck.

• “This Missouri company still makes cassette tapes, and they are flying off the factory floor.” Jennifer Billock reports.

He attended to his own talent, not in the interest of bombast or self-aggrandisement, but rather like a faithful watchman. He had the fixity of the great and therefore no need of vanity. He estimated that three shillings would be a reasonable price for Ulysses. A tiresome book, he admitted. At the same time he was dogged by fear that the printing house would be burnt down or that some untoward catastrophe would happen. He assisted Miss Beach in wrapping the copies, he autographed the deluxe editions, he wrote to influential people, he hawked packages to the post office. He knew that the illustrati would change their minds many a time before settling down to a final opinion and that many another would know as much about it as the parliamentary side of his arse.

Edna O’Brien on James Joyce

• At Wormwoodiana: Mark Valentine on The Secret Glory by Arthur Machen, another novel now in its centenary year.

• At Aquarium Drunkard: It Is Not My Music, (1978) an hour-long Swedish TV documentary about Don Cherry.

• At Bandcamp: The transportive psychedelia of Moon Glyph records.

• Mix of the week: Fact Mix 844 by A Psychic Yes.

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Show.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Guitar.

Mumblin’ Guitar (1960) by Bo Diddley | Electric Guitar (1979) by Talking Heads | Impossible Guitar (1982) by Phil Manzanera

Weekend links 606


An alphabet by Tina Smith.

• Coming in March from Warp records: reissues of three Broadcast releases that were previously only available in limited quantities, Microtronics, Volumes 1 & 2, and Mother Is The Milky Way. The latter is an EP which makes a perfect companion to Witch Cults Of The Radio Age, and while its reissue means I’ll no longer be able to brag about owning one of the rare originals it really ought to have been more widely available. In addition, Warp will be releasing the group’s first live album, BBC Maida Vale Sessions, a collection of performances for radio. All these releases are packaged in new cover designs by Julian House.

• “Nature Boy was the conduit through which vegetarian ideals, nonconformism and notions of living in harmony with nature began to filter into US culture.” Jon Savage on the exotic world of Eden Ahbez.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Two booklets of Austin Osman Spare: Earth: Inferno (1905), The Book of Pleasure (Self-Love) (1913).

Joyce refused to fix the meaning of the words on the page and left the reader to fend for themselves. So the content may not be actually shocking, but the book feels exciting—as though it might turn shocking any second. Anything might stir in the body or consciousness of a character, in the body or consciousness of the reader. My mother was right to consider it a dangerous text. The thing the censors worried about were the uncensored workings of their own minds.

More than any other book, Ulysses is about what happens in the reader’s head. The style obliges us to choose a meaning, it is designed to make us feel uncertain. This makes it a profoundly democratic work. Ulysses is a living, shifting, deeply humane text that is also very funny. It makes the world bigger.

Anne Enright on Ulysses at 100

• At Aquarium Drunkard: occult scholar Mitch Horowitz on the Transmissions podcast.

• 5th Dimension: DJ Food examines a piece of psychedelic Op-art by Michael English.

• New music: Möbius by Jonathan Fitoussi/Clemens Hourrière.

• At Spoon & Tamago: Hiraku Suzuki’s Constellations.

• The month in type at I Love Typography.

Wyrd Daze Six Star.

Nature Boy (1975) by Big Star | Nature Boy (1980) by Manu Dibango | Nature Boy (1999) by Jon Hassell