Mp3 Blog #88: Happy Bloomsday!

Luciano Berio:
”Thema (Ommagio a Joyce)” (1958)
Acousmatic Music
Not commercially available

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The perfect piece of music for whatever your Bloomsday festivities may be Berio’s “Thema” is one of the first masterpieces and one of my favorite works in the acousmatic genre. It also features one of my favorite instances of word painting in all music – the b-b-bl-bl-bloo-bloo-bloom-bl-bloom-bl-bloom-bloom-blooming-ooming-ming-ing of the word blooming.

The text that Cathy Berberian recites in this piece, taken from the beginning of the “Sirens” episode in James Joyce’s ”Ulysses”, follows:

BRONZE BY GOLD HEARD THE HOOFIRONS, STEELYRINING IMPERthnthn thnthnthn.

Chips, picking chips off rocky thumbnail, chips. Horrid! And gold flushed more.

A husky fifenote blew.

Blew. Blue bloom is on the

Gold pinnacled hair.

A jumping rose on satiny breasts of satin, rose of Castille.

Trilling, trilling: I dolores.

Peep! Who’s in the… peepofgold?

Tink cried to bronze in pity.

And a call, pure, long and throbbing. Longindying call.

Decoy. Soft word. But look! The bright stars fade. O rose! Notes chirruping answer.

Castille. The morn is breaking.

Jingle jingle jaunted jingling.

Coin rang. Clock clacked.

Avowal. Sonnez. I could. Rebound of garter. Not leave thee. Smack. La cloche! Thigh smack. Avowal. Warm. Sweetheart, goodbye!

Jingle. Bloo.

Boomed crashing chords. When love absorbs. War! War! The tympanum.

A sail! A veil awave upon the waves.

Lost. Throstle fluted. All is lost now.

Horn. Hawhorn.

When first he saw. Alas!

Full tup. Full throb.

Warbling. Ah, lure! Alluring.

Martha! Come!

Clapclop. Clipclap. Clappyclap.

Goodgod henev erheard inall.

Deaf bald Pat brought pad knife took up.

A moonlight nightcall: far: far.

I feel so sad. P. S. So lonely blooming.

Listen!

The spiked and winding cold seahorn. Have you the? Each and for other plash and silent
roar.

Pearls: when she. Liszt’s rhapsodies. Hissss.

-James Joyce

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