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G&S Typesetters PDF proof “Might be what you like, till you hear the words”: Joyce in Zurich and the Contrapuntal Language of Ulysses JÜRGEN E. GRANDT If you can hear, this music will make you think of a lot of weird and wonderful things. You might even become one of them. Amiri Baraka, John Coltrane Live at Birdland When the young American music student Otto Luening arrived in Zurich in early 1917, he had just barely avoided arrest by the German authorities. The Luenings had spent the first years of World War I in Bavaria, but now that Otto was of military age and had no passport , he had become subject to internment. Once in Zurich, he found himself in the cultural hub of Western Europe. Not only diplomats, war profiteers, spies, deserters, refugees, and political agitators had found a comparatively safe haven in neutral Switzerland: strolling down the Niederdorfstrasse after hearing C. G. Jung guest-lecture at the University, one could easily encounter Tristan Tzara in the Restaurant Tivoli, Igor Stravinsky at the Café Pfauen, and then Hermann Hesse at the Bar Odéon. Luening was enthralled by the city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere; he enrolled at the conservatory, where he became the student of another expatriate, Philip Jarnach. Jarnach, born in Nice of Spanish and German parentage, taught composition and counterpoint, and the two men quickly became friends. Luening, in his memoir The Odyssey of an American Composer, remembers how he first heard of another fellow exile: “Apropos of nothing in particular, Jarnach said in a music composition class, ‘And then, of course, there Joyce Studies Annual, Volume 14, Summer 2003© 2003 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, Texas 78713-7819 05-T2928 3/3/04 11:02 AM Page 74 G&S Typesetters PDF proof jürgen e. grandt 75 1 The biographical background for this paragraph is culled from Luening’s autobiography , Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce, and Jarnach’s Schriften zur Musik. Luening recalls Joyce saying that Jarnach was “the first intelligent musician he had ever met,” and Luening the second (qtd. in Martin et al. 43). 2 The term counterpoint refers throughout to the musical technique of composition, not the literary device. 3 The most thorough explication of “Sirens” as fugue is supplied by Margaret Rogers in her essay “Decoding the Fugue in ‘Sirens,’” where she defines the fuga per canonem as follows: A fugue is a polyphonic musical composition of one or more themes repeated or imitated by successive voices sounding against each other, creating a single harmonic texture in a continuous interweaving of voices. A canon is a contrapuntal musical composition in are real artists, like James Joyce’” (185). Jarnach at the time was living right next door to the Joyces, and it was not long before Luening met the author in person. Joyce recruited him for his impromptu theater company, The English Players, and soon established a close relationship with the young American.1 Joyce was hard at work on the middle sections of Ulysses when he met Jarnach and Luening, and these two friendships were to influence the shaping of the novel dramatically. For Joyce, the use of music as inspiration and theme was nothing new, of course. A lover of opera, sacred choral music, Irish folk tunes, and owner of a fine tenor voice himself, he had for a while toyed with the idea of becoming a professional singer, and music was never far from his mind when he was writing. Literary critics have long tried to analyze the structure of Ulysses in these terms or untangle all its musical allusions, and a substantial body of criticism exists on the subject. However, what has been overlooked so far is that it is not so much the narrative structure of the novel that is shaped by music, but rather the language itself . Through Jarnach and especially Luening, Joyce became better acquainted with musical notation in general and the compositional technique of counterpoint in particular, providing him with a new approach to language. Exiled first from Dublin and then Trieste, Joyce now began to exile himself from the English language, crafting a new language as the...


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