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Posts Tagged ‘James Joyce’

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Photo: Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ ), Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster.
RTÉ Players recorded James Joyce’s mammoth work
Ulysses in 1982 for the Joyce centennial. It was rebroadcast today. Still going.

I didn’t know this before, but apparently many Irish people didn’t initially love James Joyce. They didn’t understand his writing any more than you or I did. But when a radio production brought his characters to life, they realized they knew these guys.

Denis Staunton has the story at the Irish Times.

“Britain had just defeated Argentina in the Falklands, Israeli forces were shelling Beirut. … But Dublin’s mind was elsewhere on June 16th, 1982, as the city celebrated the centenary of James Joyce’s birth with a mammoth Bloomsday festival. …

“Joyce’s words were everywhere in the city that day because from 6.30 am until the following afternoon, RTÉ Radio broadcast a complete reading of Ulysses lasting almost 30 hours.

“Listening on transistor radios and Walkmans, many Dubliners who had long been intimidated by the book found that they not only understood it but enjoyed it and recognised themselves in it. …

“The Irish Times [wrote], ‘The voices of the RTÉ readers became the medium for Joyce’s living words. The writer’s poor sight and fondness for singing surely must have affected the conspicuous musicality of his prose: he wrote to be listened to rather than read, so that Ulysses in its radio shape was shown to be an epic ballad.’

The recording, … broadcast in full on RTÉ Radio One Extra from 8 am [today and] available on rte.ie/ulysses, includes every word in the novel. But it is as much a dramatisation as a reading, with 33 actors playing more than 400 parts.

“As a 20 year-old actor in the RTÉ Players when the company spent most of 1981 on the project, I played a number of small parts including Ned Lambert and Lyster, the Quaker librarian and various voices that ensured I was at most of the rehearsals and recordings. …

“The director was Willie Styles, a former actor from New Zealand who had trained at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) before moving to Dublin … He was RTÉ’s most talented radio drama director by a distance and one of the most accomplished in the world, winning a succession of international awards as he embraced each technological advance. He worked on Ulysses with Marcus McDonald, a sound engineer who shared both his fastidiousness and his appetite for experimentation in sound.

“The textual adviser was Roland McHugh, an entomologist whose interest in the acoustics of grasshoppers led him to become an expert on Finnegans Wake. McHugh’s first challenge was to go through the text working out which words should be spoken by whom, with some chapters involving multiple narrators as well as characters. He decided that the Sirens chapter, which is set in the Ormond Hotel, should have four narrators.

“ ‘If you listen to it, the thing starts with Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy talking and you’ve got a narrator for them. And that goes on for about four pages, I think, and then you switch to Bloom, and he gets a separate narrator. So we’re jumping backwards and forwards between those two narrators until we get about halfway through the thing, and then a third narrator comes in and mostly says short things about the coach that Blazes Boylan is travelling in. And then towards the end there’s a fourth for the piano tuner. Those four narrators seemed to me to make a lot more sense of the thing,’ [McHugh] said. …

“Laurence Foster, an actor in the company who later became an energetic and innovative head of radio drama at RTÉ, says the medium makes specific demands on an actor.

“ ‘You have to get inside your own head – it’s a very selfish medium. You have to believe what you’re saying. You have to see through the mind’s eye and you have to bring up an incredible energy that converts the voice into painting pictures. The voice has to get a dynamic and a colour and a resonance and a rhythm,’ he says.

“ ‘You don’t play to the other person. The microphone is the audience and the audience’s ear. And when you get that into your head that you’re whispering into their ear, you don’t need a huge amount of voice.’ …

“It will now be available free online to listen to any time you want. But as The Irish Times observed after the first broadcast, listening to the entire book continuously is an experience of a different order entirely.

“ ‘When the seamless broadcast ended, many listeners must have discovered withdrawal symptoms,’ the editorial said.” More here.

Glad I read the book last year, so I sort of know what we’re talking about.

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