The finnecies of poetry wed music

Joyce and Music: Bronze by Gold

Music is a labyrinth with no beginning and no end, full of new paths to discover, where mystery remains eternal.
—Pierre Boulez

The works of James Joyce are filled with music and song, so it’s only natural that musicians would return the favor. James Joyce has inspired countless compositions—one can find thirty settings of  “Poem V” alone! A comprehensive catalogue of Joyce-related music is well beyond the scope of the Brazen Head, but here at “Bronze by Gold” you’ll find a robust selection of the more interesting, celebrated, or deserving works. Most of these pieces are commercial available, and wherever appropriate, you’ll find links to purchasing or downloading the music. Feel free to wander around, and if you have anything to add or suggest, never hesitate to drop us a line.

Note: This section will be gradually restored during 2024–25! As entries are added, the links will turn from gray to green.

New Joycean Music

Yes I Will Yes
German theologian and composer Dieter Schnebel used Molly’s soliloquy from Ulysses in his experimental piece, Yes, I will Yes.

Joyce In Songs
A new album of Joyce’s poetry set to music by Polish baritone Maciej Bartczak. Includes two world-premieres by composers Wojciech Stępień and Marta Kleszcz.

Barber: Complete Songs
Another full collection of Barber’s songs, this one features Filippo Farinelli on piano.

The Brazen Head contains the following sections. You may also use the “Joyce” menu at the top of the page.


Albert, Stephen
Stephen Albert found much inspiration in Joyce, using his texts for various song cycles and his Pulitzer-prose winning Symphony RiverRun.

Antheil, George
A personal friend of James Joyce, this American composer never finished his Opéra Mécanique, based on the “Cyclops” episode of Ulysses.

Arnaoudov, Gheorghi
This Bulgarian mystic and minimalist composed FOOTNOTE, an “imaginary interlude” to Tristan und Isolde based on Joyce’s poem “A Prayer.”

Barber, Samuel
This twentieth-century Romantic composed six pieces based on Chamber Music, one drawn from Ulysses, and two from Finnegans Wake.

Berio, Luciano
One of Italy’s most talented and beloved avant-garde composers, Berio has composed several Joyce-inspired works.

Boulez, Pierre
The inimitable French modernist composer and conductor credited Joyce as an inspiration for the structures of his Third Piano Sonata and Répons.

Burgess, Anthony
In 1982, author and composer Anthony Burgess composed an operetta about Ulysses called Blooms of Dublin.

Cage, John
John Cage has composed several fascinating pieces inspired by Finnegans Wake.

Citkowitz, Israel
Composer of Five Songs from Chamber Music for voice and piano.

Del Tredici, David
Winner of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize, this American Neo-Romantic tapped Joyce for several works before turning to Lewis Carroll as a muse.

Finney, Ross Lee
A student of Alban Berg, Lee set the whole Chamber Music cycle of poems to music in the early fifties.

Goebbels, Heiner
This eclectic German composer named his project A House of Call/My Imaginary Notebook after Finnegans Wake.

Heller, Alfred
This American composer/pianist is a protégé of Heitor Villa-Lobos, and based a song cycle on Joyce’s Chamber Music.

Lauer, Elizabeth
American composer Elizabeth Lauer set poems from Chamber Music to piano and mezzo-soprano.

Lerdahl, Fred
Lerdahl’s Wake is a work of “post-Schönbergian atonal romanticism” inspired by the ALP episode of Finnegans Wake. 

Luening, Otto
An American who befriended Joyce in Zurich, Luening—who later pioneered electronic music and co-founded the CRI label—set a few of Joyce’s texts to songs.

Machover, Tod
Electronic composer Tod Machover’s Soft Morning, City! is scored for soprano, double bass and electronics, and incorporates text from the Wake.

Marsh, Roger
The producer for Naxos’ James Joyce audio productions, Marsh based his Not a Soul But Ourselves on the ALP episode of Finnegans Wake.

Maxwell Davies, Peter
British iconoclast Peter Maxwell Davies’ Missa super L’homme armé was partially inspired by Ulysses.

Mendes, Gilberto
This Brazilian composer studied under Boulez and Stockhausen, but was influenced by Villa-Lobos and bossa nova. His Ulysses in Copacabana Surfing with James Joyce and Dorothy Lamour certainly wins the award for the best Joycean title!

Moore, Ben
The American opera composer Ben Moore has set several of Joyce’s poems to music, including “In the dark pinewood,” “Bright Cap and Streamers,” “I Would in that Sweet Bosom Be,” “This Heart That Flutters,” and “Simples.”

Partch, Harry
This eccentric American microtonalist composed Two Settings from Finnegans Wake in 1944 for soprano, double flageolet, and kithara.

Rands, Bernard
A labyrinthine work for text, voice, and music, Canti Lunatici features Joyce’s lunar poem, “Simples.”

Reynolds, Roger
Reynolds’ Voicespace III: “Eclipse”  for voice and tape uses texts by Issa, Melville, Stevens, Joyce, Borges, and García Márquez. [This link takes you to the Reynolds page on The Garden of Forking Paths.]

Rosenblum, Mathew
An eclectic American composer, Rosenblum’s Maggies combines live instrumental music with ambient sounds and pre-recorded texts by Barthelme, Lish, and a pastiche of the Wake by Roger Zahab.

Takemitsu, Toru
One of Japan’s greatest composers, Takemitsu wrote several works inspired by the first-and-last paragraph of Finnegans Wake.

Schnebel, Dieter
German theologian and composer Dieter Schnebel used Molly’s soliloquy from Ulysses in his experimental piece, Yes, I will Yes. [Link takes you to a 2018 German-language performance by Sarah Maria Sun and Johannes Fischer.]

Shaw, Caroline
American composer and vocalist Caroline Shaw incorporated Joycean texts into her song cycle with Sō Percussion, Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part.

Świder, Józef
This Polish composer’s Chamber Music is a suite of six Joyce poems.

Victory, Gerard
This Irish composer served as RTE’s Director of Music, and many of his compositions are based on Irish themes or poetry, including Joycean works.

Zimmerman, Bernd Alois
Zimmerman’s Requiem for a Young Poet makes extensive use of texts from Joyce.


Nakano, Takayuki 
An avant-garde musician, Takayuki Nakano is a drummer who often incorporates passages from Finnegans Wake into his work. He has recorded several pieces containing works founded on Joycean texts, including: “Another Time,” “[],” “For Kenny,” and “1996-1997.” [Offsite: Link takes you to Takayuki Nakano’s small homepage]


Barrett, Syd
A founding member of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett was known for his psychedelic excursions into the musical unknown. His first solo album, The Madcap Laughs, contains the song “Golden Hair,” a spare arrangement of “Poem V” for acoustic guitar.

Beatles, The
Was “I Am the Walrus” inspired by Finnegans Wake, or is that just a bit of rock-lit apocrypha? Speculation and information are just a click away!

Bush, Kate
The lyrics of her song “The Sensual World” were adapted from Molly’s soliloquy in Ulysses.

Jefferson Airplane
Their song “rejoyce” appears on the 1969 album After Bathing at Baxters, the group’s most ambitious work of psychedelia. The lyrics are a stream-of-consciousness exploration of Ulysses.

King Crimson
The band’s fourth album, Islands, evokes images of Homer and, perhaps, Joyce’s Ulysses.

Morrison, Van
Two of Sir Van’s songs have minor Joyce connections, name-dropping our favorite Irish author in both “Summertime in England” and “Too Long in Exile.”

PopCanon were a cheerfully demented and wildly talented group from Gainesville, Florida. Among other literary treasures, PopCanon’s debut albums contains the song “Bloomsday,” a song that juxtaposes a reading of Ulysses with a birthday crucifixion.

Reed, Lou
The late great Lou Reed references Joyce in two songs, “My House” and “Magic and Loss.” The first song appears on the album The Blue Mask. Dedicated to the poet Delmore Schwartz, whom Lou Reed considered a mentor, one line describes their relationship in terms of Ulysses. The second song, which deals with grief, contains a small reference to Joyce.

Tangerine Dream
In 2011, these Krautrockers-turned-New-Agers hit a low point in their once-great catalog with James Joyce—Finnegans Wake.

Additional Information

James Joyce Music
Located on the wonderful “Waywords and Meansigns” Finnegans Wake site, this page features hundreds of links to Joyce-inspired music. Truly an impressive achievement!

Author: Allen B. Ruch
Last Modified: 29 June 2024
Main Joyce Page: The Brazen Head
Contact: quail(at)shipwrecklibrary(dot)com

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