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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

James Joyce the musician

Published: 11 June 2012
Professor David Owen Norris

Southampton's head of keyboard studies, Professor David Owen Norris, rounds out his series for Radio 4 with James Joyce's Playlist, which airs at 10:30am on Saturday 9 June. The programme was recorded at the Martello Tower at Sandycove, just south of Dublin, where James Joyce spent six nights in September 1904, and where he later set the opening of Ulysses.

This is the 11th programme in the Playlist (formerly iPod) series, in which Norris explores the musical lives of noted historical figures. The inaugural broadcast in 2010 - Jane Austen's iPod - grew out of Southampton's extensive research in domestic music, led by Professor Jeanice Brooks, and centred on Jane Austen's own music collection. It was supposed to be a one-off, but it was repeated almost immediately, and new programmes on the model were commissioned for 2011 and 2012.

Subjects have included: Benjamin Frankin, recorded at his house at Charing Cross; Emma, Lady Hamilton, in the Maritime Museum at Greenwich (which holds her music collection; Samuel Pepys, in the Pepys Library at Madgadene College Cambridge; Charles Dickens at his house in Doughty Street; Thomas Hardy in his study at Max Gate; Robert Burns, in the room where he learned to dance, at Tarbolton; Oscar Wilde in Bosie's room at the Cadogan Hotel; Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace; and Shakespeare at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The Playlist of the title is not merely flippant. Norris blends historical research with contemporary musical takes on his topics, arranging the music for the jazz singer Gwyneth Herbert and the versatile baritone Thomas Guthrie, who concentrate on putting words across. Norris chooses styles familiar to R4 listeners - God rest ye merry in the style of Brubeck (for Dickens), Purcell's Music for a while as a blues (for Pepys), or a song by Ben Franklin that turned into a real Sinatra number. The programmes have included important first broadcast performances: American songs satirising Oscar Wilde's tour of the USA, the correct tune for My luve's like a red, red rose, extracts from Emma Hamilton's favourite song, and previously completely unknown songs such as Queen Victoria's Baby.

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