A setting by John Cage of words taken from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake for voice and piano. In a manner that actively recalls his earlier The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs, Cage has written for the piano to be played percussively. The song opens with the keyboard lid slammed shut, the remained of the piano part is restricted to dull thumps on the sides of the case. The vocal part is more declamatory than lyrical.
nowth upon nacht,
while in his tumbril Wachtman Havelook seequeerscenes,
from yonsides of the choppy,
by his curserbog,
went long the grassgross bumpinstrass that henders the pubbel to pass,
stowing his bottle in a hole for at whet his whuskle to stench ecrooksman,
sequestering for lover's lost propertied offices the leavethings from allpurgers' night,
og gneiss ogas gnasty,
knappers and bands,
handsboon and strumpers,
sminkysticks and eddiketsflaskers;
This composition dates from 1984, and was written in memory of Cathy Berberian, a soprano who promoted modern vocal music and extended vocal techniques in the mid-20th Century.
The text of the song is excerpted from page 556 of the Viking Press edition, the lines following those from which The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs was excerpted. Biographical information about the circumstances of this composition from David Revill's The Roaring Silence, published in 1992 by Arcade Publishing.