Review of the Celestial Harmonies (Patrick Ball) Finnegans Wake

First appeared the in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Does anyone apart from Eng. Lit. academics and linguistic trainspotters read "Finnegans Wake" these days? Back in the 1960s it was quite de rigeur to carry a copy around and when trying to impress, to read a section and claim you understood it. Yes, it is a richly rewarding exercise. But equally, it is like Peter Greenaway's "Prospero's Books" -- better as a theory than as a reality. Too rich and dense for consumption by normal means.

This recording by Patrick Ball is an astute compromise and goes quite a way to making the work accessible. Ball, an Irishman and celtic harpist, now living in the United States, has composed a series of pieces (all are rooted in Irish traditional music) inspired by sections of
"Finnegans Wake." Not surprisingly. there is "riverrun" (23 minutes of music and reading from the opening pages), "Shem" (16 minutes from the Shem and Shaun section) and, for more than half an hour, the glorious "Anna Livia Plurabelle."

It works because "Finnegans Wake" makes sense only when read aloud, because Ball is a good reader with a soft Irish lilt to his voice, and because a celtic harp is ideal accompaniment (it is clean and simple, the text is complex and rich) for this strange and wonderful novel.

You've got to be a committed Joycean to enjoy this. If you are, you'll
love it.

****1/2 out of *****

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(Thanks to Ross of the Finnegans Wake List for posting this review)