A New Project Sets James Joyce’s Words to Music

Does James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake need a soundtrack? A group of academics and Joyce fans thought so, and they set out to give it one. The result is a unique project, “Waywords and Meansigns,” which presents musical versions of each of the massive work’s 17 chapters.

According to The Guardian, the project was started by a group of Joyce fans with the idea of making Finnegans Wake more accessible. The work is famously difficult to read, but many scholars feel that it’s easier to understand when read out loud. To some fans, adding music was the next logical step.


The project’s organizers asked 17 different musicians to each “render a chapter aurally.” The only requirements of the project were that the original words of Joyce’s work had to be audible in the new recording, and that they had to be “more or less in their original order.”

The musical recruits make a remarkably diverse group, that includes Grammy-winning producers as well relative unknowns. The results are equally diverse in style and tone, which certainly suits Joyce’s kaleidoscopic novel. 

Has the project succeeded in making Joyce’s work easier to digest? See for yourself by listening to it below!