KT Cloudbusting -- Kate Bush In Her Own Words

The Sensual World

You've obviously got the difference here between sensual and sexual. Most of us confuse these two words, so what is the difference as you can see it?

Well I think `` The Sensual World'' is talking specifically about the context of that within the song. The song is about someone from a book who steps out from this very black and white 2-D world into the real world. The immediate impressions was the sensuality of this world - the fact that you can touch things, that is so sensual - you know... the colours of trees, the feel of the grass on the feet, the touch of this in the hand - the fact that it is such a sensual world. I think for me that's an incredibly important thing about this planet, that we are surrounded by such sensuality and yet we tend not to see it like that. But I'm sure for someone who had never experienced it before it would be quite a devastating thing.

Those church bells on the front - that's a sensual sound to me.

I love the sound of church bells. I think they are extraordinary - such a sound of celebration. The bells were put there because originally the lyrics of the song were taken from the book Ulysses by James Joyce, the words at the end of the book by Molly Bloom, but we couldn't get permission to use the words. I tried for a long time - probably about a year - and they wouldn't let me use them, so I had to create something that sounded like those original word, had the same rhythm, the same kind of feel but obviously not being able to use them. It all kind of turned in to a pastiche of it and that's why the book character, Molly Bloom, then steps out into the real world and becomes one of us. (1989, Roger Scott)


What's the significance of the bells at the beginning of the song?

I've got a thing about the sound of bells. It's one of those fantastic sounds: sound of celebration. The're used to mark points in life - births, weddings, deaths - but they give this tremendous feeling of celebration.

In the original speech she's talking of the time when he proposed to her, and I just had the image of bells, this image of them sitting on the hillside with the sound of bells in the distance. In hindsight, I also think it's a lovely way to start an album: a feeling of celebration that puts me on a hillside somewhere on a sunny afternoon and it's like, mmh... Sounds of celebration get fewer and fewer. We haven't many left. And yet people complain of the sound of bells in cities. (1989, NME)


Because I couldn't get permission to use a piece of Joyce it gradually turned into the song about Molly Bloom the character stepping out of the book, into the real world and the impressions of sensuality, SAYS KATE, SOFTLY, ALMOST CHILDLIKE. Rather than being in this two-dimensional world, she's free, let loose to touch things, feel the ground under her feet, the sunsets, just how incredibly sensual a world it is. (1989, NME)


I originally heard the piece read by Siobhan McKenna years ago, and I thought, ``My God! This is extraordinary. What a piece of writing!'' It's a very unusual train of thought - very attractive. First I got the ``mmh yes,'' and that made me think of Molly Bloom's speech; and we had this piece of music in the studio already, so it came together really quickly. Then, because I ouldn't get permission to use Joyce, it took another year changing it to what it is now. Typical, innit! (1989, NME)


What drew you to the molly bloom character?

I actually heard Molly Bloom's speech being read by an Irish actress years ago. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. I was transfixed with this piece of literature that was so beautifully written and so very feminine. (1989, Network)


What song did you find most difficult to write, and why?

Well, I suppose there's a few. There's a few songs that have been difficult to write. I think the most frustrating and difficult to write was the song, `` The Sensual World.'' Uh, you've probably heard some of the story, that originally it was written to the lyrics at the end of Ulysses, and uh, I just couldn't believe how the whole thing came together, it was so... It was just like it was meant to be. We had this sort of instrumental piece, and uh, I had this idea for like a rhythmic melody, and I just thought of the book, and went and got it, and the words fitted - they just fitted, the whole thing fitted, it was ridiculous. You know the song was saying, ``Yes! Yes!" [Laughter from audience]

And when I asked for permission, you know, they said, ``No! No!" [Lots of laughter from audience]

That was one of the hardest things for me to swallow. I can't tell you how annoyed I was that, um, I wasn't allowed to have access to this great piece of work that I thought was public. And in fact I really didn't think you had to get permission but that you would just pay a royalty. So I was really, really frustrated about it. And, um... kind of rewrote the words, trying to keep the same - same rhythm and sounds. And, um, eventually, through rewriting the words we also changed the piece of music that now happens in the choruses, so if they hadn't obstructed the song, it would have been a very different song. So, to look at it positively, although it was very difficult, in the end, I think it was, it was probably worth all the trouble. Thank you very much. (1990 Kate Bush Con)

In the original piece, it's just ``Yes'' - a very interesting way of leading you in. It pulls you into the piece by the continual acceptance of all these sensual things: ``Ooh wonderful!'' I was thinking I'd never write anything as obviously sensual as the original piece, but when I had to rewrite the words, I was trapped.

How could you recreate that mood without going into that level of sensuality? So there I was writing stuff that months before I'd said I'd never write, SHE LAUGHS. I have to think of it in terms of pastiche, and not that it's me so much. (1989, NME)


The original piece, right, was just the most beautiful piece of writing I've ever read. It's like this never-ending sentence, this long train of thought, and the only thing that punctuates it is the word ``yes'' and it very gradually accelerates. I just thought it was just one of the most sensual pieces ever written. When I came to write this album, I suddenly remembered this writing, and the original lyrics were from the book. I just picked it up and all the words fitted perfectly to the music. I couldn't believe that the two things would just come together.

But when I applied for permission to use the words I was refused, so I was *extremely* disappointed. Then I had to rewrite the words trying to keep the same sense of sound, but obviously I'm not James Joyce, so it was a question of keeping the same shape and creating a new story. So it gradually turned into Molly Bloom stepping out of her speech in the book and into the real world. In the book she's a very sensual woman, and it was the idea of her stepping out of this black-and-white world into the real world and being hit by the power of the sensuality of the world, the environment, the elements. (1989, NME)


I had a rhythm idea with a synth line I took home to work on one night. While I was playing it this repeated *Yes* came to me and made me think of Molly Bloom's speech right at the end of Ulysses - which I *have* actually read all through! I went downstairs and read it again, this unending sentence punctuated with 'yeses', fantastic stuff, and it was uncanny, it fitted the rhythm of my song. (Q, 1989)

Now that was a really complicated process for a track to come together. It started off with a song - no words. I'd had this idea for about two years to use the words from Molly Blooms' speech at the end of Ulysses, which I think is the most superb piece of writing ever, to a piece of music. So Del had done a Fairlight pattern, and I'd done a DX riff over the top of it, and I was listening to it at home, and the words fitted absolutely perfectly. I thought God this is just ridiculous, just how well it's come together. (1989, International Musician)


The lyrics were taken straight from Molly Bloom's soliloquy. The words were so rich, so intimate. It was like magic the way they fitted.

Unfortunately, the joyce estate had no interest in hearing the author's words set to music. If bush wanted to invoke ``ulysses", she'd have to start from scratch. She did, cooing ``mmh, yes,'' and murmuring images of ``seedcades'' and ``arrows of love'' while uilleann pipes an irish bagpipe moaned in the background.

I was disappointed and it was very difficult wanted to keep the original sense, but obviously I am not Joyce. But with the rhythms I had it began to turn into what the Molly Bloom character is about. I was stepping out of the song into the beauty [Of] nature. (1989, AP)


That song was a hard haul. Originally I'd used Joyce's actual words and set them to music. When I approached his estate for permission they said no. I spent a year asking them to please listen to the song, but they had every right to say no. They felt it wasn't good for Joyce's work.

So you found a way around their objections?

I rewrote the lyrics to give them this lovely sensual rhythm. It was very difficult. I mad rhymes and used syllables and brought in these words so Molly BLoom could step out of the book and into the real world. My goal was to bring this sensual woman into a place where she could actually touch things. In the long run the obstacles I ran into made me turn it into a better song. (1989, Network)


We then approached the relevant people for permission to use the lyrics, and they just would not let me use them. No way. I tried everything. So I thought if we're really getting nowhere with this, let's take a different approach to the song. I heard this piece of music which a fan sent in about two years earlier, and we put the tune in the choruses in place of what we had. So that went in, and all the lyrics I had to change.

To try and keep the sense of the original words, but something that would be original, I came up with this idea of Molly Bloom stepping out of this speech into the real world. And in the book she's such a sensual woman - womanly, very physical, it just seemed that she would be completely taken by the fact that this 2D character could actually go around touching. So that's what it turned into. The fact that they didn't let me use the lyrics turned the song into something very different. It was such a complicated process, and really quite painful to actually let it go. (1989, International Musician)


Based on molly bloom's monologue at the end of joyce's ulysses, `` the sensual world'' only stepped off the printed page when the publishers refused to give kate bush permission to quote the novel.

It transformed the song. Obviously the words had to change, but also the musical sections were completely different. By them being uncooperative it made the track better in many ways, but it was very difficult to keep the rhythmic sense of the words. (1989, NME)


Although to kate ``it felt like it was meant to happen", when she applied through ``official channels'' (presumably the joyce estate) for permission to use it, she was refused. But she wasn't to be deflected. I tried to write it like joyce, she says, smiling in self-mockery. The rhythm at least I wanted to keep. Obviously I couldn't do his style. It became a song about molly bloom, the character, stepping out of the page - black and white, two-dimensional, you see - and into the real world, the sensual world. Touching things. She declaims exaggeratedly. The grass underfoot! The mountain air! I know it sounds corny, but it's about the whole sensual experience, this wonderfully human thing....

And lines like ``his spark took life in my hand''

Yes, it is rather saucy. But not nearly as sexy as James Joyce. SHE LOOKS CONCERNED AGAIN. I'd be really worried - there's nothing can do about it now because it's all part of the process - but I would be worried if people felt this ambiguity between sensual and sexual. (Q, 1989)

As an example of bush's adventurous arrangements, the title track of bush's latest release, the sensual world, has a unique blending of both celtic and middle eastern sounds. The song was adapted from a traditional macedonian piece sent to bush by a fan, jan libbenga. It was so beautiful that I was completely taken by it. So we used that piece and adapted it. The celtic flourishes are provided by uillean pipes, which kate has also used on her previous albums the dreaming (1982) and hounds of love (1985). (1990, Option)


She claims the sensual world contains the most ``positive female energy'' in her work to date, and compositions like ``thiswoman'swork'' tend to enforce that idea.

I think it's to do with me coming to terms with myself on different levels. [That has got to be one of kate's all-time favourite stock phrases! -ied] In some ways, like on Hounds of Love, it was important for me to get across the sense of power in the songs that I'd associated with male energy and music. But I didn't feel that this time, and I was very much wanting to express myself as a woman in my music, rather than as a woman wanting to sound as powerful as a man.

And definitely `` The Sensual World" - the track - was very much a female track for me. I felt it was a really new expression, feeling good about being a woman musically.

But isn't it odd that this feminist or feminine perspective should have been inspired by a man, joyce?

Yes, in some ways...but it's also the idea of Molly escaping from the author, out into the real world, being this real human, rather than the character: stepping out of the page into the sensual world.

So is this concept of sensuality the most important thing to you at the moment? Is it one of the life forces?

Yes. It's about contact with humans. It could all come down to the sensual level. Touch? Yes. Even if it's not physical touch: reaching out and touching people by moving them. I think it's a very striking part of this planet, the fact that there is so much for us to enjoy. The whole of Nature is really designed for everything to have a good time doing what they should be doing...Fancy being a bee, leading an incredible existence, all these flowers designed just for you, flying into the runway, incredible colours - some trip.... (1989, NME)


A lot of people have said it's sexy. That's nice. The original piece was sexy, too; it had an incredible sensuality which I'd like to think this track has as well. I suppose it is walking the thin line a bit, but it's about the sensuality of the world and how it is so incredibly pleasurable to our senses if we open up to it. You know, just simple things, like sitting in the sun, just contact with nature. It's like, for most people, their holidays are the only time they get a real burst of the planet! (1989, Pulse)


Why's davey spillane playing a macedonian air on his uillean pipes in the middle of it? [Note that kate has not identified this music as such, only the idiot interviewer. It may or may not be correct. - ied]

It was one of those, ``Oh what the hell'' things. That seems to have been the way with a lot of this album. Sort of ``Oh god! Tut...Will it work? Ooh, er...'' Then when I've eventually just gone for it, it seems to have worked. (1989, NME)


"The sensual world'' is about molly bloom, the fountain of lust and life in james joyce's dauntingly super-realist novel, ulysses. it's a book that's defeated my attempts to read it again and again, and I confess to kate that it gives me a hell of a lot of trouble.

God, yes!

Why molly bloom?

Well, I just thought it was such an extraordinary piece of writing. It's so...ooh!...It's such a beautiful style. It's like trains of thought continually tumbling...You know, tumbling speech, and not kind of..."stopped.'' I first heard her speak being read years ago by...I'm pretty sure it was Siobhan McKenna. [There is in fact a recording of mckenna's reading of this soliloquy, so kate is almost certainly remembering correctly. - ied] And it had such a femininity about it. That was my first exposure to it.

And it just came together with this song. We'd written this piece of music in the studio, and I thought, ``What about putting the Molly Bloom speech together with this?'' So I went and grabbed the book, and it worked perfectly. It just scanned - the whole song. But, unfortunately, when I applied for permission to use the words, they wouldn't let me.

Obviously, I was very disappointed. It was completely their prerogative, you know, they don't have to give their permission. But it was very difficult for me, then, to reapproach the song. In some ways I wanted to just leave it off the album. But we'd put a lot of work into it - the Irish musicians had worked hard - so it was a matter of trying to rewrite the lyrics so it kept the same rhtymic sense, because the words are so rhythmic; and to keep the sense of sensuality as well, without using the Joyce lyrics. So it all kind of turned into this piece where Molly Bloom steps out of the book into real life, where she can actually reach out and touch things in the real world. In a lot of ways, because of their lack of co-operation, it transformed the track into something else.

When you say the joyce piece had a ``femininity'' about it, what do you mean?

It's difficult to put into words, but I think, on the last album, Hounds of Love, particularly in the production, I wanted to try and get across a sense of power, and the way I related to that was very much what I consider very good male music - the kind of power I found there was not what I found in a lot of females' music.

It's not that I was trying to write like a man or anything - but there was this level of approaching the album, soundwise, that I think had a male energy. But I didn't want to do that on this album. I wanted to do it as a woman, not as a woman working around a man's world. This all sounds awful!

It's making sense.

Is it? Oh, good! I think The Sensual World was very much a chance for me to express myself as a female in a female way, and I found that original piece very positive female talking...That's the only way I can describe it. (1989, Melody Maker)


"The sensual world'' (a girl/woman on the threshold of life?)

That's interesting. The subject matter is very much like that but it's meant to be a character from a book stepping into the real world. It's the first time she's been in a body. (1989, Tracks)


I had been fascinated at how well the words fit to music. I found myself in a situation where I would either have to shelf the song or rework it trying to keep the original sense. I gradually rewrote it, keeping the same rhythm of the words and the same sounds but turning it into its own story, which became the idea of Molly Bloom stepping out of the song into the beauty of nature. (1985, The New York Times)


Its a shame you couldn't quote straight from ulysses but its almost become more than that.

Well thank you, that very nice. I mean obviously it was very disappointing for me that I couldn't use the original piece and I did approach for permission to use the words, but I was refused. So I had to actually rework it and I am glad to see that you think in some ways it might have, you know, turned the song into something else because that's what I feel. I feel that actually the lack of cooperation has turned the song into something else which is a positive thing.

Its an incredible song, `` the sensual world''

Well, thank you very much. (1990, KDGE)


The title track of the sensual world was inspired by a character in ulysses, by james joyce.

Well, originally the words were taken from Molly Bloom's speech. I tried to get permission, but it was refused. Obviously there wasn't anything I could do about it except either forget the song or rewrite it. So, as such a lot of effort had gone into the musical side of it, and we were quite pleased with it, I really just re-approached the words, keeping the same rhythm and texture. But it turned itself into a story about Molly Bloom's stepping out of the book into the sensual world... In some ways, the lack of co-operation made us work harder to turn the song into something else. So that's quite nice. (1989, Reaching Out)


What was interesting was the fact that through their lack of cooperation, that they wouldn't let me use the lyric, the original piece, the song actually became something else. So I think in many ways them not helping us out turned the song into what it is. The song grew and changed into something more interesting. Certainly not lyrically, but as a piece of music. (1990, Option)


I remember this piece of music from about three years ago that my brother Paddy had played me - a fan had sent it in, and it was this beautiful piece of music from Macedonia. It was just gorgeous, and I thought, well I don't know if it will work, but let's try it and it worked and that's how it's in there. (1989, Roger Scott)


Paddy: There's someone out there that I owe a big thankyou to. We can't find your name. We know you live in holland, and several years ago you sent a cassette to us of a selection of your favourite tunes, including rosina de peira, harmony-singing from the bahamas, and some macedonian a-la-turk ensemble music...you must know who you are by now, and that you are an unsung run on the ladder, so get in touch and be recognized, and in the time in between please accept my thanks and a kiss from my sister. [The person in question is jan libbenga, a music journalist who provided a tape of a version of the macedonian melody which kate subsequently arranged for irish instruments and recorded on this song. Unfortunately for mr. Libbenga, he did not wait to read the above graceful acknowledgement by paddy and kate, but lost no time in publishing a mean-minded accusation in a dutch music journal which accused kate of ``fraud'' ] (kbc 23, 1989)

We wanted to make the video for `` The Sensual World'' as simple as possible in that so many videos now are overloaded with effects, big sets, they look expensive. So what we wanted to do was just keep it in one set, one environment and depict what for me the song ``The Sensual World"' is about, which is the sensuality of this planet, the weather, the elemental changes, being able to reach out and touch, the sound of the wind, all of these wonderful things that we are surrounded by. (1989, VH-1)


I gotta think if there was ever a video for this that it would never get shown on tv.

Well there is actually a video already made and it's been shown quite a lot on TV.

Has it ?


What's it basically, what happens in the video ?

Well its really conveying what I feel about `` The Sensual World", which is that its an incredible planet that we live in. It has tremendous sensuality, the texture and the colours of everything that nature supplies is incredibly beautiful, and the song is about a character Molly Bloom stepping out of a book into the real world. So its the idea of how someone who's been living a black and white two-D world is so struck by the beauty of our real world and in the video its really like one long journey through a wood with the elemental changes of the weather and the day and the night, really just celebrating the world that we live in. (1990, KDGE)


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