"Thema (Omaggio a Joyce)" is an amazing composition by Luciano Berio, using tape and the voice of Cathy Berberian, his wife, the intense and unique contemporary avant-garde music vocalist. Words are issued from chapter XI "Les Sirènes" of "Ulysses", the James Joyce's famous novel. As an electroacoustic composition, the piece uses the possibilities of combining phonemes and the meaning of sounds that Joyce used in his text.
A first version, titled "Omaggio a Joyce. Documenti sulla qualità onomatopeica del linguaggio poetico" was for a radio documentary and was build at "Institute of Musical Phonology", in Milan, Italy. Initially conceived for four audio channels, this version was finaly recorded in stereo in 1958 under the title "Thema (Omaggio a Joyce)" and published on a Turnabout' LP. In 1995, it was digitally restored as the definitive version.
"... I tried to interpret musically a reading of Joyce’s text, developing the polyphonic intent that characterizes the eleventh chapter of Ulysses (entitled “Sirens” and dedicated to music), whose narrative technique was suggested to the author by a common procedure of polyphonic music: the fuga per canonem..."
Luciano Berio & Cathy Berberian
"... par les moyens électroniques, le compositeur multiplie les bribes-mots, décompose et recompose les énoncés continus, les déforme (jusqu'à l'abstraction totale, fouillis de gazouillis et pépiements, souffles), en les manipulant selon des critères d'organisation différents de l'écriture du texte (par essence contraint par la nécessaire signifiance), en variant les vitesses, les durées et les bandes de fréquences..."