Music in "Sirens"


Ottocaro Weiss (1896–1971)
James Joyce, Zurich, 1915
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, the State University of New York


The “Sirens” episode of Ulysses takes place at 4 pm at the Ormond Hotel on the Quays overlooking the River Liffey. Stephen Dedalus’ father Simon is there, his friend Ben Dollard is there. Leopold Bloom, the main protagonist of the book, enters the dining room. Now what happens in this episode is a sort of apotheosis, for Joyce, of how his father is to be presented in Ulysses. Simon Dedalus comes into the bar. He's not drunk, he's not annoying anybody, he's not a domestic nuisance, he is a man with a beautiful singing voice and everybody wants to hear him. And in this episode, he sings “M’appari” from Martha by Flotow and he’s followed by his friend Ben Dollard, who sings “The Croppy Boy” which is an Irish nationalist ballad. Bloom is in the other room listening to this. [Music begins]

I think this episode shows us more than anywhere else, the importance of music in Ulysses. That is how people are connected. Molly Bloom, Leopold Bloom’s wife, is a singer. Simon Dedalus is a singer. They have known each other for years and it's a very small world of professional and semi professional singers. [Music begins]