This text covers Joyce's writing in terms of music and evaluates the music - its form, kind and technique - in each work. Using Joyce's own rhetoric of theme and variation, the author moves from one character to another, through the poems, fiction and drama, noting improvizations and finding intricate musical patterns throughout the canon. As Joyce's work grows in philosophical complexity, he says, its music becomes more recognizable. In "Chamber Music" and part of "Dubliners", Joyce at first merely mentions musical title, instruments and forms. In other stories in "Dubliners" he alludes to them. His writing in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" begins to approximate musical techniques, and music reflects and dominates its story and characters. By the time of "Finnegan's Wake", it replaces both. Within the works, Weaver cites examples of musical augmentation, diminution, harmony, counterpoint and key signatures, showing how the works become more experimental and increasingly dissonant in the manner of avant-garde composers.
The author argues that Joyce's characters and works operate between the extremes of order and disorder, harmony and chaos, music and noise, and that these polarities both signal and contribute to the rhetoric within the texts. Finally, he says, Joyce's rhetoric itself becomes music.