Dear Nora (2016)

solo cello and stereo electroacoustic track
6 min.

When I came across a letter penned by Irish writer James Joyce in the summer of 1904 (22 years old at the time) to his future wife, Nora Barnacle, whom he had just met– I fell in love with these words. I think they express the tender uncertainty of new love so perfectly—something many of us have felt, but few of us could articulate so clearly. This piece was composed for solo cello and stereo electroacoustic track, with Joyce’s text read by Vancouver-based author, Fraser Nixon.

Dear Nora was premiered at the Western Front, Vancouver, Canada, on March 18th, 2017, as part of the Sonic Boom Festival.


“15 August, 1904

My dear Nora,

It has just struck me. I came in at half past eleven. Since then I have been sitting in an easy chair like a fool. I could do nothing. I hear nothing but your voice. I am like a fool hearing you call me ‘Dear.’ I offended two men today by leaving them coolly. I wanted to hear your voice, not theirs.

When I am with you I leave aside my contemptuous, suspicious nature. I wish I felt your head on my shoulder. I think I will go to bed.

I have been a half-hour writing this thing. Will you write something to me? I hope you will. How am I to sign myself? I won’t sign anything at all, because I don’t know what to sign myself.”


Sheet music for this piece is available through the Canadian Music Centre.