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Album Review

"Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake" is a 60-minute radio piece based on James Joyce's book Finnegans Wake. At its core is John Cage's text "Writing for the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake," a series of mesostics that form an objective reduction of Joyce's overwhelming text. "Roaratorio" consists of four "layers" of sounds. First is the voice of Cage himself speak-singing his text, thus providing a space-time line. Second is a collection of field recordings from the places mentioned in the book. Third is a collection of sounds mentioned in the book. Finally, Cage recorded Irish musicians (Joyce was Irish) and added their pieces to the mix, for a total of 62 tracks of constantly shifting sonic magma that live a dizzying life, just like Joyce's novel. Even though Cage used chance operations to make editing and mixing choices, the piece doesn't have the gratuitous or aleatory feel of some of his other hörspiels and is simply a fascinating (although highly complex) work. In 1992, Mode released this well-conceived two-CD set that brings all the necessary elements to the "Roaratorio" file. Alongside the piece there is a highly informative conversation between the composer and Klaus Schöning titled "Laughtears" and recorded in August 1979, right after the final mix of the piece was completed. Also included is Cage's reading. The booklet includes the full text of "Writing for the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake," a transcript of the conversation, and a number of other related documents. A second edition came out in 2002 with remastered 24-bit sound. The piece will fascinate aficionados of Cage's music and Joyce scholars. ~ François Couture, Rovi


Born: 15 October 1919 in Galway, Ireland

Genre: World

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

A magnificent singer in both Gaelic and English, Heaney sings in sean-nos, the highly ornamented style of traditional...
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Cage: Roaratorio, Joe Heaney
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