Clipping from the Freeman's Journal announcing a 1904 concert featuring James Joyce James Joyce: Music in the Novels and Poems

James Joyce Quote
This performance is not only entertainment of the highest order, but also a significant contribution to the understanding of the works of James Joyce.
James Joyce Unquote

[ Zack Bowen ]

Their Exagmination Round Our Factification for Incamination of Music from the Works of James Joyce

::  Jolas  ::  Jordan  ::  Bowen  ::  Connolly  ::  Pearce  ::  Ellmann  ::

From an authority on Joyce and music

Zack Bowen, chair of the English Department at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, is an internationally recognized James Joyce scholar and author. He has ten published works to his credit, including Musical Allusions in the Works of James Joyce (1974) and Bloom's Old Sweet Song: A Collection of Essays on Joyce and Music (1995). He is also the producer-director of a series of dramatic recordings of chapters from Ulysses.

Zack Bowen

In 1974, while Prof. Bowen was on sabbatical from teaching English and Joyce studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton (now Binghamton University), Kevin McDermott conceived of, created, and premiered a program of songs from Joyce's works as part of the requirements for his degree in the Department of Music. When Prof. Bowen returned the next year, his students told him about the performance, describing it in the most enthusiastic terms. He then sought out Mr. McDermott (who was unaware at the time that he shared the same campus with the dean of Joyce music scholars!) and generously opened his file cabinets of Joycean music, the fruits of much hard labor.

One important song, "Seaside Girls," had not been included in the premier performance because it had eluded Mr. McDermott's most assiduous research; yet Prof. Bowen was able to produce the sheet music out of his files — remarking that of all the pieces in Ulysses, it had proved the most difficult to acquire. This anecdote captures immediately the generous nature of this scholar. His support was also invaluable in promoting the concert and subsequently introducing Mr. McDermott to the Joyce community at large.

After Mr. McDermott left the university, moved to Boston, and began collaborating musically with Ralph Richey, he continued to receive assistance and encouragement from Prof. Bowen (then teaching in Delaware), culminating in a concert given in 1982 at the Gotham Book Mart, headquarters of the famed New York James Joyce Society. In addition, the professor provided the liner notes for the original studio recording of the concert released as an LP in 1981 (his commentary has been included in the notes for the latest re-release on CD). Before that, however, Prof. Bowen had been instrumental in arranging a memorable concert for the singer at an international Joyce symposium held in June of 1976 at SUNY-Buffalo (now Buffalo University). In a letter dated March 7, 1977, he wrote of that occasion:

Mr. McDermott is a singer and scholar whose program at the Buffalo Joyce Symposium ... was the most talked-about event on the entire program. He is a specialist in songs of the period Joyce represented in his works and deals with the authentic music Joyce uses as a background for his short stories and novels. This performance is not only entertainment of the highest order, but also a significant contribution to the understanding of the works of James Joyce.

— Zack Bowen, Chairman
Dept. of English
University of Delaware

As an interesting aside, a few years ago Prof. Bowen wrote a memoir of Frances Steloff, the Gotham Book Mart, and his involvement with the James Joyce Society. It was published in the Summer 2001 issue (Vol. 12) of the Joyce Studies Annual and mentions, among other things, Thomas Connolly, Mabel Worthington, and Matthew Hodgart, three other well-regarded Joyce specialists. The latter two scholars in particular are notable for their pioneering work on the topic of Joyce and music.

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