Malfunctioning music and the art of noise: the prepared pianos of Jules Laforgue

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While Laforgue criticism has explored the prominent role which music plays in his work, studies have focused on Les Complaintes and Derniers vers rather than his abandoned volume Le Sanglot de la Terre. This article suggests that Laforgue's later poetics of discord and dissonance already takes shape here: thematically, by subverting images of mechanical music such as the barrel organ, and formally, in the various dislocations which the poet inflicts on his verse. This malfunctioning music is read alongside wide-ranging evidence, in Laforgue's prose, notes and correspondence, of a notion of sound collage which demonstrates striking similarities with avant-garde musical experiments in the twentieth century by Russolo, Schaeffer or Cage, such as noise music and musique concrète. This aesthetics of explosion, decomposition and juxtaposition allows Laforgue to abandon previously secure hierarchies of beauty in favour of a modern, mobile idealism in which poetic value is unstable, dynamic and in constant process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-65
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2016


  • Jules Laforgue
  • Rhythm
  • Alexandrine
  • Music
  • Noise
  • Luigi Russolo
  • Pierre Schaeffer
  • John Cage


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