Solitary Hotel
Desperate and Still, op. 4, 1968-1969.

Song No. 4: "Solitary Hotel" (2:39)


Samuel Barber's "Solitary Hotel"
Composed between 1968 and 1969, this song belongs to a suite of five songs called Despite and Still. The lyrics are taken from Ulysses, from a passage where Stephen suggests a "scene" to Bloom in response to one of Bloom's many offbeat ideas. Unfortunately Stephen's impromptu scene unintentionally brings to Bloom's mind his father's suicide.

Lyrics


From DESPITE AND STILL op. 41 (1968-1969)

Song No. 4: "Solitary Hotel"

(Like a rather fast tango; op. 41; From Ulysses)

Solitary hotel in a mountain pass.
Autumn. Twilight. Fire lit.
In dark corner young man seated.
Young woman enters.
Restless. Solitary. She sits.
She goes to window. She stands.
She sits. Twilight. She thinks.
On solitary hotel paper she writes.
She thinks. She writes. She sighs.
Wheels and hoofs. She hurries out.
He comes from his dark corner.
He seizes solitary paper.
He holds it towards fire. Twilight.
He reads. Solitary. What?
In sloping, upright and backhands:
Queen's hotel, Queen's hotel, Queen's ho . . .

Notes

The origin of the song is a passage from Ulysses, one of the "catechisms" of the penultimate "Ithaca" episode. I will reprint the relevant section here:

Which example did he adduce to induce Stephen to deduce that originality, though producing its own reward, does not invariably conduce to success?
His own ideated and rejected project of an illuminated showcart, drawn by a beast of burden, in which two smartly dressed girls were to be seated engaged in writing.

What suggested scene was then constructed by Stephen?
Solitary hotel in mountain pass. Autumn. Twilight. Fire lit. In dark corner young man seated. Young woman enters. Restless. Solitary. She sits. She goes to window. She stands. She sits. Twilight. She thinks. On solitary hotel paper she writes. She thinks. She writes. She sighs. Wheels and hoofs. She hurries out. He comes from his dark corner. He seizes solitary paper. He holds it towards fire. Twilight. He reads. Solitary.

What?
In sloping, upright and backhands: Queen's Hotel, Queen's Hotel, Queen's Hotel. Queen's Ho. . .

What suggested scene was then reconstructed by Bloom?
The Queen's Hotel, Ennis, county Clare, where Rudolph Bloom (Rudolf Virag) died on the evening of the 27 June 1886, at some hour unstated, in consequence of an overdose of monkshood (aconite) selfadministered in the form of a neuralgic liniment composed of 2 parts of aconite liniment to 1 of chloroform liniment (purchased by him at 10. 20 a.m. on the morning of 27 June 1886 at the medical hall of Francis Dennehy, 17 Church street, Ennis) after having, though not in consequence of having, purchased at 3.15 p.m. on the afternoon of 27 June 1886 a new boater straw hat, extra smart (after having, though not in consequence of having, purchased at the hour and in the place aforesaid, the toxin aforesaid), at the general drapery store of James Cullen, 4 Main street, Ennis.

Did he attribute this homonymity to information or coincidence or intuition?
Coincidence.


CD Information

To obtain all of Barber's Joyce songs there is really only one choice -- Secrets of the Old, a 2-disc set of Samuel Barber's complete songs. (It used to just be called "The Songs Complete.") The songs are sung by Cheryl Studer and Thomas Hampson, with John Browning on piano. It is put out by Deutsche Grammophon and has the serial number 435 867-2. "Solitary Hotel" is sung by Thomas Hampson.
You may listen to sound samples and/or purchase Samuel Barber CDs online from Amazon.com below:

Barber: Secrets of the Old --The Complete Songs (2 CD set)
Samuel Barber / Audio CD / Released 1994
(Complete -- contains all nine Joycean songs!)


More Barber

Chamber Music Songs -- These six songs are settings of poems from Chamber Music.

Nuvoletta -- A beautiful song with lyrics adapted from Finnegans Wake.

Now I Have Eaten Up the Rose -- This song is based on a James Joyce translation of a German poem by Gottfried Keller.

Fadograph of a Yestern Scene -- A short instrumental inspired from a line in Finnegans Wake.


--A. Ruch
14 December 2000
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