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SIRENSCIRCUS - YES Festival

Ebrington Square, Derry~Londonderry, BT47 6FA
Promotional image for Sirenscircus.

About

SIRENSCIRCUS will begin on Molly Bloomsday as the stroke of 4pm rings on Derry’s Guildhall clock (the time set in Ulysses) and come to halt at 6pm with the episode’s last word Pprrpffrrppfff amplified across Ebrington Square.  In between, visitors can wander through at their own will to experience all the sounds, music and instruments mentioned in Ulysses’ Episode XI, Sirens – a sonic wash and soundscape of horse whinnies and steel horseshoes clip-clops on the cobbles of a horse and trap, harp, horn, tympani, pipe, fifes and war drums, seahorns, cellos, double bass, trombone, dulcimer, pianos, corks poppling from bottles, batons tap tapping, china rattling on trays, shoes creek, bells ting, chords crash, giggles peal, coins ringing, trilling laughter, a choir of burps, hiccups, yawns, mumbles, sighs, pantings, ballad songs (The Lass of Aughrim, The Croppy Boy) and the blues.  8 actors will read sections of the episode in fugue style through microphones.  Everything will be amidst a blazes of of colours (also mentioned throughout the Sirens episode) of bronze and gold, pearl grey, blue bloom and ocean green.

The YES SIRENSCIRCUS will bring together over 100 musicians, singers, actors, participants and sounds that will be realised for the first time ever in a one-off world premiere of all the sounds and music written by Joyce in the Ulysses Sirens episode.  Joyce spoke later of his wish to write the episode in the form of music, an 8-piece fugue even.

The music and sounds framework for SIRENSCIRCUS will be realised through the American 20th century composer John Cage’s wondrously communal and democratic piece for communities called Musicircus*.  The idea of the composition is “nothing more than an invitation to any number of musicians willing to perform simultaneously anything or in any way they desire” (John Cage Trust).   The YES ‘desire’ is to turn Musicircus into a unique once-off circus of sounds created by Joyce in his Ulysses Sirens episode.  John Cage was a lifelong admirer of James Joyce writing several compositions in honour of Joyce, not least his extraordinary Roaratorio, a sonic rendering of the world of Finnegan’s Wake.

Episode XI of James Joyce’s Ulysses is known as the Sirens episode, a reference to its Homeric inspiration in the Odyssey.  Odysseus recounts how Circe informed him that the songs of the two Sirens would make him and his men to forget their journey and lure them to their deaths.  Circe advised Odysseus to have himself tied to the mast of his boat and on no account for his men to release him no matter how much he would desire to be with the Sirens.  His men were to plug their ears with beeswax whilst they rowed so that they could not be drawn in by the Sirens’ songs.  In Ulysses, the sirens are barmaids and Joyce’s Island setting is a Dublin bar!

Audiences can come and go at any time as they wish between 4pm – 6pm and stay as long or as little as they wish.  However, it is advisable to arrive for the overture of sounds at 16.00 to hear Joyce’s first three overture pages of sound before the words commence.

Full details of the event, its participants and instrumentation, will be published early June.

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