When you think of James Joyce’s mammoth modernist masterpiece Ulysses, music might not be the first thing that comes to mind (it is, after all, a book), but songs are still an important part of the influential Irish novel.
So on Bloomsday 2017 (the novel takes place on June 16, 1904, and Joyce fans celebrate his work and life on June 16 each year), we’re rounding up some of the tunes to make their way into the world of Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus and the assortment of characters occupying Joyce’s vivid (and often impenetrable) portrayal of Dublin.
First, here’s “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” a tune that Molly Bloom plans to sing on an upcoming tour with Blazes Boylan, her lover. Composed by J.L. Molloy and G. Clifton Bingham in 1884, the song serves as a recurring reminder of adultery.
Next, here’s Luciano Pavarotti singing “M’appari” from Flotow’s 19th century opera Martha. Bloom hears this sung by Dedalus in Ormand Bar and notes that this opera, Martha, shares the name of his pen pal, Martha Clifford.
In the realm of famous fans of Ulysses, here’s Kate Bush singing “Flower of the Mountain” (a.k.a. “The Sensual World”), a track which puts Molly Bloom’s book-ending soliloquy — “he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes” — to music.
Lastly, check out the musical measures that Joyce inserted into Ulysses. And if you’ve never read Joyce’s magnum opus, start now — you’ll be finished by the time Bloomsday 2018 rolls around.
— Joe Lynch (@branniganlynch) June 16, 2015