© 2022 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

James Joyce's Poems Get a Musical Facelift

In 1907, shortly after publishing a book of love poetry titled Chamber Music, Irish writer James Joyce penned a letter to his brother Stanislaus: "Some of the verses are pretty enough to be put to music. I hope someone will do so, someone that knows old English music such as I like." A century later, a group of independent electronic, folk and rock musicians have done just that.

All 36 verses from Joyce's book of poetry have been put to music by artists such as Peter Buck from R.E.M. and Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth.

Producer James Nichols got the idea a few years ago while thumbing through Joyce's poetry in a bookstore. He was so intrigued that he decided to find out more about the obscure collection of verses. He wasn't the first: Several artists have put bits of Joyce's lyrics to music. The late Syd Barrett took the fifth stanza and turned it into the track "Golden Hair" in 1969. Composer Samuel Barber wrote music for six of the verses from the book.

But no one has ever attempted the whole thing until now. The result is an album of diverse music that ranges from traditional folk to ethereal electronica to pop.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.