Constantin Frosin in dialogue with Angela Furtuna


A focus on music and literature












Angela Furtuna : – Which do you prefer? « The Music of Literature, » or « Music and Literature »? We’ll start with a few remarks on prosody and then go on to a few essential interactions between disciplines…


Constantin Frosin : – In the beginning was the word. At least down here on earth. And combined with the gift of speech received by humans at a certain point in their evolution, it tipped the scales in favour of literature. We talk about composing a poem, and we also talk about composers in music. But first we have to know how to talk and write, and then start singing, don’t we? This kind of discovery brings us back to the eternal debate: which came first, the chicken or the egg? The one can’t exist without the other, but if one resulted from the other, it was music that came from literature. A possible definition of music would be, in our view: another way of saying life and history, a little like literature, but with specific means… If we speak of the higher levels of the Heavens, it is music that reigns supreme over other arts! But for the time being, let’s keep our feet on the ground…

Music and literature, because these two arts are equal. It’s all the same, as the saying goes, or, to express it better, both arts are equally good, since the content is the same: ecstasy, contemplation, the relationship with nature and ens entis, by the feeling etc., it is just the form of expression that differentiates them! Through « alchemical » processes that artists alone know, ART – the One, can be subdivided and converted into any known art and accepted as such, the final one, chronologically speaking, being Translation. A Great Master, who has unfortunately left us – Henri Meschonnic, said that The translation has to sing, and, before reading him, I myself spoke of Translation in the singing state.

Everything is singing around us and in us, and is enchanting us, only man disenchants… Art, in any form, is the house of the human (lares, [1] a homophone of « l’art » designates, in fact, the household gods). But art can be the third person of the verb ardre (in old French), meaning burn (from which we get the word « ardent »): as long as there is no flame crackling and no fire sizzling, there is no art… Or there may be, but it would be an art done in //double time… « L’art » is also a homophone of lard in French, which occurs in the expression (se) faire du lard = sit around doing nothing. The relationship to well-being is obvious, and we can say that art also provides spiritual well-being. Without any ulterior motive, we can say that there are pseudo-arts, and the goal of their followers are to se faire du lard, not art…

The arts are the deposits that the human pays (in his or her way) to Life (or to God?), so that It (or He?) makes it possible to live, to be desire, sometimes even to have desires to be alive… The arts provide you with the opportunity to stay in the sun (to paint, even to write / compose verses, we need light, right?). Those who practise the arts have these expressions in French: Faire le / son lézard, vivre en lézard, meaning « basking / living in the sun » and lézard makes another pun with les arts. Why? Because the arts love the sun, like lizards… The arts – as many references, landmarks in our quest for the Light! The arts – the ares of the T, of Theurgos, where we are neighbours, as creators, the Great Creator…




[1] Usually, all the gods that were chosen as patrons and protectors of a public or private place, all the gods whose countries, cities and houses asked for protection, of whatever kind, were called Lares.




But the word that is most revealing of hidden (even secret) meanings is music. It is the only art that presupposes the presence (so to speak, anyway one seems to be assisted by a someone or something, usually an angel, which can take on the features of a woman) of the Muse. It is also the only art that recalls that its ultimate aim is to entertain, to please. But also the only art that involves the presence of the soul, because we can break it down as follows: l’âme use (la Muse sounds the same as l’âme use, the soul uses/wears). We can assume that the soul uses something to make this life more livable, at least more bearable… Or something to wear down the soul (nice inversion!)? Or else a sic: [Placed in parentheses after a word, an expression or a phrase to indicate that the preceding is quoted without any modification] Thus in the text, as strange and/or incorrect as it may seem. In other words, the soul uses the body, as soon as the soul is involved, goodbye to habits or bodily comfort, as if we were forgetting that the body is only a protective shell, as much as it can be, and the soul that inspirational engine that puts the body in movement…

But also, given that French and English are Indo-European languages, I am inclined to think of Sikh (sic), and Sikhism. One of the four great religions of India, founded in the late fifteenth century in the Punjab, Sikhism set as a principle the existence of a single creator God, without form and beyond human understanding. And just as one can accept that the only good Gods are Goodness and Beauty, therefore, we can think of the Beauty God chosen by music, the followers of this art.

What is even more interesting is that music moves the soul, or else even an individual without a soul, changes into someone else under the effect of music: the soul mutates, sic! Listening to good music can transform you, make you better, make you think, etc. (because movement is change).




Now it’s the turn of the word Literature… This is apparently an invitation not to write, not to do literature: Lis tes ratures (Read your deletions) a pun made by Aragon (and I understand an implied « instead » at the end…). Which would suggest: Stop writing, instead look at the inanities (deletions) that you’ve written! Which is equivalent to When in doubt, don’t, or Prudence is the mother of safety… Or it could be deciphered as exploring letters, id est writing, since doing literature means exploring the letters of the alphabet, or else trying your hand at any literary genre (literature-belles lettres).


photo j basse frosin-constantincopyright: JACQUES BASSE


In etymology, we find two « roots » that are surprising to say the least, with no connection between them: litura (« smearing »), liturarius (« erasure, draft »). Does the current form refer to friendly advice: smear your deletions / your drafts (with fat, for example), to make them drinkable / digestible…? Were the authors so jealous of their talent and their works that they advised others against at least trying them? Or should we instead see in it the expression of disgust or contempt of the well-to-do class for writers? Lite(ra) rats t(-o-) ur – id est « the exploring of letters gnawed by the rats », another possible definition of literature, formulated by the posh people of the period…Who considered literature to be a pile of inanities meant for rats…




Since France is the land of puns, word plays, etc., perhaps we should take a glance, look at  it more closely: Lis, t’es (are like a) rat, hure! [Read, you are like a rat, boar’s head!] Boar’s head suggesting, for example, You look horrible! The writers defended tooth and nail their works and their domain of application, by forbidding access to scribblers. They don’t err on the side of politeness, those people! Lit, which sounds that same as lis, is bed in French, and liter means to layer (and literie is bedding), but we won’t use those. We might be going too far, even being antipoetical or antiliterary… although the effect could be funny!


AF : – Is there in the history of art a moment in which we can say that a consciousness of the music of literature emerged? Starting with the Hellenic ideal of linking word and song, can we describe, diachronically, the perspective that has culminated today?


CF : – The history of relationships between music and literature was understood as stormy, involving a kind of twinship, indifference or rivalry. To the point where these two arts have never stopped idealizing or hating each other. In spite of their shared mythic, Orphic origins, both have tried to construct their aesthetic autonomy. Their complex association took shape in multiple spheres, from the church to the theatre, and across many genres, from the lay to the lied, the melodrama and opera and musical comedies. A very solid study, carried out by experts, should make it possible to think, in historical terms, about the liaison between synchronic and diachronic, culturally, the link between peculiarities and the universal, and aesthetically, the connection between autonomy and fusion of arts. I confess that my overview, based on simply cultural generalities, has no such ambitions. For the good reason that I am among those who do not at all love taking away the charm and mystery from any form of art…




The invention of literature, in the modern sense, goes back no more than two centuries, and the affirmation of music as an autonomous art is even more recent. We can therefore legitimately ask whether the growing specialization of fields of knowledge are not established out of kilter with the more global way in which works were apprehended in their time, beyond clearly established boundaries between artistic and cultural spheres.

I admire your very elaborate questions, only, as you know already, I am a non-conformist and I never submit to questionnaires, nor to regulations, unless… Perhaps it is because I am myself a person of letters concerned (it happens…) with musicality and rhythm (which says a lot sometimes, even more than what is said by the words of a song or the words of a poem).

Yes, there was in the history of human thought, of terrestrial spirituality, what are called revelations, illuminations that have opened the way to new refinements of thought, but that occurred naturally, as part of the logic of things, following the spiral of evolution. As soon as the artificial was felt, as soon as it encroached on the natural, it was harmful both to the arts and to artists.

There have been landmarks, yes, references, for example, in Antiquity, we attribute to Horace the words: Ut pictura poesis, repeated in his Ars Poetica, written during the period 20–10 BCE. His book was very significant for the critical theory of the classical period, translated for the first time into English by Queen Elizabeth I, in 1598! Only he was not the inventor of that famous phrase, he expressed what was one of the most common comparisons. The original author was the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos (556–469 BCE), but it was much later that Plutarch (46–122 CE) recorded it in his book On the Fame of the Athenians (De gloria Atheniensium). According to Plutarch, Simonides said: Poema pictura loquens, pictura poema silens, meaning that Poetry is talking painting, and painting is mute poetry! Or that painting is silent poetry, and poetry is eloquent painting! It was the pure reflection of the belief established by Aristotle, Horace et altri, that the purpose of literature and the visual arts is the representation, more precisely, the ideal imitation (mimesis) of human actions.

During the Renaissance and after, this point of view inspired the Neoclassical European criticism, urging artists and writers to aim for the same goals (general truths of a moral and instructive nature) by using the same means (imitations of an empirical but idealized nature, such as allusions to Bible stories). Thus, the doctrine (sic!) Ut pictura poesis inspired the « sister Arts, » affirming a basic kinship between literature and the other arts, such as painting, sculpture, music and architecture.

The concept of sister Arts was called into question in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Three Treatises (1744) by James Harris, while assuming mimesis as the common foundation of arts, began to emphasize the differences between poetry and painting. While the tradition of sister Arts emphasized kinship, harmony and unity, the idea of a paragon emerged: competition, debate, battle of ideas, by emphasizing differences, contrasts and exceptionality. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) did not fail to join in the debate, considering painting (in his Paragone) as the highest and most noble art! He even stated that Poetry is like painting: « But the imagination does not issue forth from the brain, with the exception of that part of it which is transmitted to the memory, and in the brain it remains and dies, if the thing imagined is not of high quality. And in this case poetry is formed in the mind or in the imagination of the poet. »

A problem stirred up the entire century of the Enlightenment: which of words or music should win out? Salieri summarized the question in a little opera that made a contribution to the debate: Prima la musica, poi le parole! In the context of triumphant rationalism, the French understood it differently: they considered the Italian opera to be a monstrosity. Under Louis XIV, Lully had nevertheless established a specifically French model of total spectacle, growing out of court ballet, pastoral ballet and declaimed tragedy. This Lullyan model raised a triple problem: poetic – should music be subordinated to language or can it possess a legitimacy in itself? – aesthetic – how can we think of strictly musical emotion in a system of representation dominated by the principle of mimesis? – and critical – how can we judge this mixed art, according to which criteria and with what intellectual legitimacy?




Since the tragedies of Gluck and the operas of Mozart, the figure of the composer emerged as one of a privileged master, until the Wagnerian conception of the musical tragedy that culminated in the mid-nineteenth century. No longer thought of as an association of parts but as an organic whole, it would be the work of a single individual. The most illustrious case is that of Wagner, who wrote his own libretti.

This is the issue of your analysis, in my view: show an interpenetration of the two arts so that one informs the other; it is not an intertextual approach, nor is it thematic connection. What it is is all the borrowings contracted by writers from the musical – therefore, non-referential – semiotic code to attempt to thwart the congenital linearity of the linguistic code. More precisely, with the « correspondance des arts » [relationships of the arts] established by Étienne Souriau in 1969, it already emerged that the linguistic and musical codes were close and complementary; both arts, in fact, involve vibrations of air perceptible by ear and a rhythm (what Plato called « order in movement »); the two codes operate differently, however: in fact, the linguistic code is used for the representation of the real (meanings of the literary works, secondary form), while the musical code (primary form) is used for the presentation of the work itself: an abstract structure that directly arouses emotions in us.

« Music helps me compose » said Jean Giono,  » musical architecture unconsciously suggests literary architectures to me. » And Aldous Huxley had one of his novel characters (Philip Quarles, in Point Counterpoint) which became his profession of faith: « The musicalization of fiction. Not in the symbolist way, by subordinating sense to sound. But on a large scale, in the construction. » And how can we not think of André Gide and his character Édouard in The Counterfeiters?




These are clear clues that help us in the quest for our corpus; biographical clues: the author is musician (musicologists such as Alejo Carpentier, Alessandro Baricco and Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz; composers such as Anthony Burgess and Gaston Compère; instrumentalists such as Carson McCullers and Gert Jonke [pianists], Nancy Huston [harpsichordist and flautist], Katherine Mansfield and Pascal Quignard [cellists] etc.; or famous aficionados of classical music, such as Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, Romain Rolland, Arthur Schnitzler, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, etc.). The most effective clue, certainly, is the title of the work: Novecento: pianist by Alessandro Baricco, Dialogue avec 33 variations de Ludwig van Beethoven sur une valse de Diabelli by Michel Butor, Mozart and Amadeus by Anthony Burgess, Presto con fuoco by Roberto Cotroneo, Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras, Au piano by Jean Echenoz, The Goldberg Variations by Nancy Huston, etc.




By trying to understand the object of your process, I believe that I have finally discovered the secret: understanding the music / language opposition is key to the Western scientific adventure. The problem of the music / language opposition is the problem of knowing how you can connect the perceptible and the immaterial!


AF : – After the metrical crisis, which occur in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in particular in French literature, but in music also, what is the situation today? Can we still talk about the tyranny of the measure in poetry?


CF : – In the field of French versification, the 19th century was, in fact, marked by an evolution (sometimes characterized ideologically as a « liberation ») that saw the calling into question of the coincidence between syntax and major metrical links, line endings and especially breaks. The appearance of so-called « free » verse, during the 1880s, constituted one of the symptoms of the « crisis of verse » diagnosed by Mallarmé, and culminating in 1913 with the publication of Alcools by Apollinaire: thus the first line of the collection, at the start of Zone: « You are weary at last of this ancient world » – with its problematic dieresis in the original French that gives a nod to the / this « ancient world » of traditional versification – is emblematic of metrical elasticity that would characterize versification in the 20th century. However, diction, at the turn of the century, would also go in the direction of flexibility of the number of syllables, as shown by works of experimental phonetics, a certain number of specialized treatises and studies, for example, by German philologists, as well as sound recordings. The fact remains that there was a whole debate, punctuated by arguments concerning particularly the « silent e » in French, which certainly made a lot of noise then, around the question of diction at the turn of the century.




At the same time (a significant coincidence), we saw, in the field of music, a calling into question of the « tyranny of the measure », i.e. of the metrical periodicity with the regular repeat of the strong beat – a calling into question of the correlative cause of that of the melodic-harmonic system, which would lead in some cases to atonality. While the construction of the musical phrase has been, since the mid-eighteenth century at least, governed by the laws of symmetry, technically called « squareness, » romanticism introduced forms of irregularity and asymmetry, which would be furthered developed throughout the 19th century. Chopin, Liszt And Wagner were the main artisans of this metrical relaxation, to which would also make strong contributions, in French music, Fauré, Debussy and Ravel, in favour of much more fluid rhythms.




In the face of this metrical crisis the question of the poetry / prose couple emerged. In literary terms, the distinction between poetry and prose, paradoxically re-legitimized by the prose poem (which dissociated poetry and verse, but without identifying verse and prose), was challenged by free verse, which, within poetry itself, radically challenged, as defining criteria, the relevance of the concepts of metre, syllable number and rhyme. Mallarmé extends the logic to deny, one of the very first, the distinction between poetry and prose, in favour of verse: « Verse occurs whenever there is rhythm in language, which is to say everywhere but on posters and the advertising pages of the newspapers. There are verses in the genre called prose, sometimes wonderful verses and in every rhythm. But to tell the truth, prose doesn’t exist: there is alphabet, and then there is verse, which may be more or less tight, more or less diffuse. Every time there is strain toward style, there is versification. » In the field of diction, the treatises raise the question whether, in the name of being natural, we should say verse as prose. Opinions vary concerning, for example, the production of the obsolete « e » and enjambement (strangely there is little discussion of dieresis), but, as we have seen, a certain number of documents attest to the reality of a prosified diction of verse at the beginning of the 20th century.

In music, finally, the question of prose arises in various ways, literal and metaphorical. In what way does putting a versified text to music tend to make the text into prose? Did the composers of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries do prosified readings of verse? Reciprocally, in what way does a text in prose inform « prose music » – and what can we understand from this concept? The analogy – better, the isomorphy – between the symmetry of the musical phrase and that of the metrical verse has been pointed out by certain authors, as well as the correlative association between symmetry and verse on the one hand, and asymmetry and prose on the other. The verse / prose distinction corresponds to the aria / recitative opposition in opera: although recitatives are traditionally composed on versified texts, the music corresponds to a « musical prose » – remember the melodic recitative of Pelléas, one of the very first operas to be composed on a prose text. In the comic opera of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the spoken dialogues – in prose – constituted a prosaic counterpart to the lyrical arias; similarly, it seems quite significant that the first melodramas, both in France (Pygmalion, by Rousseau) and in Germany (those of Jiri Benda, for example), associated prose texts with music. In naturalist opera, of which the subject is deliberately less than noble, it is remarkable that this thematic prosaism is accompanied by the use of prose: while all naturalist operas are not written in prose, the fact remains that this is the case of the vast majority of them, for example, the most emblematic works, such as Messidor by Alfred Bruneau (1897) and Louise by Gustave Charpentier (1900). This prose is itself varied, however, with a distinction between sustained lyrical passages (for example, Julien’s opening aria in Louise) and popular passages (act II of the same opera). In addition, the use of prose is contrasted paradoxically with non-prosaic features of the prosody of naturalist composers (realization of the obsolete « e » after vowels, dieresis), in particular with Bruneau, and more subtly with Charpentier, who uses a little superscript note with a line through it to indicate « semi-dieresis » and « semi-apocope. »

These days, singers can also be poets themselves, such as George Brassens, Jacques Brel and François Béranger, who have each forged their own style and are immediately recognizable, from their voices but also from reading their texts. As for Charles Trenet, who was the artisan of modern French song, he is both a brilliant musician and a unique poet, not to forget, of course, his talent as a charismatic singer. Poetry is also cross-cultural; for example, an author such as Verlaine, through his texts but also his philosophy and his attitude, inspires both a Léo Ferré and a John Greaves (the Welshman devoted two records to him on which he sings in French), both a Serge Gainsbourg and a Patti Smith. Charles Baudelaire’s poems were, for example, put to music by the classical composers Claude Debussy and Henri Duparc, by the avant-garde composer Diamanda Galás and by pop star Mylène Farmer, by the group from Rennes Marc Seberg and by singer Jean-Louis Murat.

Poetry plays a key role in much of the music today. This is, of course, the case with rock, in which poetic inspiration never diminishes. Two recent examples from England: Mike Scott, who set to music with his resurrected Waterboys group texts by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, the author of « Celtic Twilight. » and Marianne Faithfull who gave a unique show in which, accompanied by the cellist Vincent Segal, she read sonnets by Shakespeare. In Latin America, it made sense that Jorge Luis Borges, in love with Argentina and its history, and a great poet and novelist, wrote tango texts for Astor Piazzolla…




AF : – Could you discover, in essential terms, a few forms that you consider to be suggestive for a few languages and cultures (according to your preferences), in the approach of the word-sound relationship, in the approach of the aesthetic of balance and in the musical processing of the word?


CF : – I will cite first of all as examples four major poets and critics, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, René Ghil, Jean Royère, who liberated poetry, by rethinking it, from its links with Idealism. The concept of music led them to invent a model of poetic writing that was active and transformative. The emphasis is on the importance of music in symbolist theories, on the theoretical creative potential of the implications of the concept of music, and on the fact that theory is directed by poetic action. To go beyond the limitations of the poetry of their period and invent a new language, poets have to destabilize the categories of poetry and music, which propels the symbolist discourse toward other semantic spaces that interact with discourse on poetry.

For his part, Éric Prieto explores the « desire to incorporate musical principles into the construction of the narrative text, » which began with symbolist writers (Mallarmé, Dujardin), and continued in the first generation of « musical novelists » (Proust, Joyce, Mann, Woolf and Gide) through the work of the French New Novelists (Butor, Robbe-Grillet, Duras, Pinget) and more recent writers such as Burgess, Thomas Bernhardt, Kundera and Quignard. He examines the concept of music in connection with literary creation, the historical and philosophical background, and the history of thought. The concept of music would become a very important catalyst of narrative innovations, and the use of musical models would even affect the functioning of narrative texts. The result is that music, in the sense that the Symbolists understood it, is perhaps less an act in itself than a philosophical attribute of their poetry. It is only a short step from there to say that the poem should not be musical, but of musical essence – the keystone, though ephemeral, that is ut musica poesis itself! Note the literary fertility that permits the musical structuring of writing…

Florent Albrecht [1] tells us that, according to her, « music appears as a pretext to do poetry, and not the other way around » and that « experiences of the extreme, the undermining of the word and language, finally the subversion of the principles of meter and versification, in the name of music, therefore belong more to a game of tensioning the poetic apparatus than to a stated intention to change the paradigm » (p. 446). And she continues, page 448: « If we have to create the new at any price, it is because it was necessary to ‘take back from Music what properly belonged to them’ (Mallarmé) or declare ‘music before all else’ (Verlaine), in the wake of an Orpheus who was poet and musician — not a painter — which establishes poetic art at the top of the pyramid of the metaphysics of the arts. This is in any case ‘through refuge in a Parnassian decorative aesthetic, in a Symbolist structural absolutism or in a decadent mobile Perpetuum’ that music has been able to reveal to poetry its full potentials of fiction — ‘difference between verse poetry and prose poetry, vernacular language and poetic language, possibility or utopia of a total art, artistic religion and poetic assumption, literary and poetic limitations, poetry for the happy few or for all, existence and/or fiction of poetry…' »

« I sing, therefore I am, » the text tells us, and it is true God: music repeats its sounds, and poetry does too, but the latter, in addition, carries meaning: increased virtuosity. The poet, like the musician, must think in associative series of sounds, but the poet must, at the same time, think in a associative semantic series: bring together sound and sense. » The romantic commonplace is that literature is music in its way, that you have to know how to listen. The critical image is sometimes inverted, and Pierre Brunet, [2] for example (Les Arpèges composés. Musique et littérature, Klincksieck, 1997; Basso continuo. Musique et littérature mêlées, PUF, 2001), choses to read music as a literature.

To Boris de Schlözer, according to whom « there is an incompatibility, a profound opposition between language and music », Nicolas Ruwet answers as a linguist that there is quite the contrary no incompatibility between music and language, [that] the music-language relationship is always relevant. In modern times, poetry stops being necessarily sung and the relationships between poets and musicians are readily conflictual, and this separation is constantly being accentuated. From this point of view, symbolism appears at the same time as a new golden age of relations between poetry and music, and as the culmination of a rivalry, i.e. a separation–dispute by certain poets of the hegemony of music, appropriation of poetry by some musicians, in French songs in particular. Before that, marked by German romanticism, which places music at the summit of the arts (while the classical theory of imitation ranked it third, behind poetry and painting), aesthetic reflection, in the nineteenth century, made music the ideal paradigm of the arts.

In the 20th century, reflection on relationships between literature and music was among other things marked by the works of aesthetician Étienne Souriau, comparatists Calvin S. Brown and Steven Paul Scher. With the outstanding book by Brown (1948), musical-literary research thus went from the domain of comparative aesthetics to the domain of comparative literature, developing in the course of the entire second half of the century. Always in the literary aspect, it is remarkable that while linguistics take an interest in the question, metrical studies dealing with music concern, with rare exceptions, songs, popular songs or counting songs, but rarely high forms of vocal music (lied, art song, opera, etc.).

The specific case of Wagner, who himself wrote his opera poems (as would do, in the late nineteenth century, a number of other composers, including French ones), is emblematic of a desire for a closer relationship, ideally a merger between word and music. And in the vocal work of Debussy, all cases have the status of the text: pre-existing autonomous text (thus most art songs, but also Pelléas and Mélisande, one of the very first Literaturoper); text written by the composer in order to be set to music – and, in this second case, (semi-)existence of the text only in the musical score, more rarely, separate publication giving it an autonomous literary existence.

Romanticism introduced forms of irregularity and asymmetry, which would become more complex throughout the 19th century. Chopin, Liszt And Wagner were the main artisans of this metrical relaxation, to which would also make strong contributions, in French music, Fauré, Debussy and Ravel, in favour of much more fluid rhythms. The choice of Debussy as the focal point of the study on the relationships between spoken language and musical prosody is almost inevitable, to the extent that the composer is considered almost unanimously as an absolute, unsurpassed model in the area of French prosody, both for his supposed perfection as for his supposed naturalness, which makes Debussy the artisan of a « subtle revolution, » making it possible to move from traditional prosody to a new prosody.

We would not know what to think about Hugo’s prohibition of setting his verses to music, to the declaration of Lamartine according to which « music and poetry harm each other by associating » or else to the polemical definition of symbolism by Valéry as the desire of certain poets to « take back from Music what properly belonged to them » (Variété I, Gallimard, « Idées », p. 87; this formula is based on Mallarmé’s in « Crisis of verse »: « […] we are there, precisely, searching for […] an art to complete the transposition, in the Book, of the symphony or simply to recover their property » (in Igitur […], Gallimard, « Poésie », p. 250)

Romain Rolland, asking how the study of vocal music-musical prosody could take an interest in literature, answered this question in his study on Lully’s rant: « Literary history has not yet taken from musical history all the help it could find there. Many literary problems would be easier to solve, if they took light from music. […] Musicians have, more or less knowingly, transposed into music the way to rant about their time; and, through their songs, we still perceive the voices of great actors who were their models, or who were making law, around them ».




[1] Florent Albrecht, Ut musica poesis. Modèle musical et enjeux poétiques de Baudelaire à Mallarmé (1857-1897)

(Paris: Honoré Champion, coll. « Romantisme et modernités, » 2012).

[2] He is the honorary director of my journal: Le Courrier international de la Francophilie.




AF : – Towards which relationships will literature and music evolve in the future?


CF : – Your question goes in the direction of my own doubts and concerns regarding the future of literature and music. Idiots apparently who lead this shadow planet order us to no longer read our stories from childhood on books, but on… tablets, recommend we no longer eat natural vitamins, but stuff ourselves with all kinds of E harmful to desire… Will it be read in the future? Wouldn’t imposing those tablets be the equivalent at times to a re-destruction of the Library of Alexandria? Where will the planet, already in an energy crisis, draw so much energy to feed all these gadgets, tablets and all? And as for music, do we imagine that it will be possible to listen to it properly using headphones hooked up to Smartphones or sophisticated tablets? Do we imagine that the great halls such as Pleyel or Olympia could one day disappear, to be made into restaurants or discos, for the simple reason, you see, that listening would be the same or even better thanks to the new technologies?!

Finally, let us stay optimistic and conclude this macro-essay with opinions borrowed from great personalities who expressed views on music and literature. « Without music, life would be a mistake, » mused thought Friedrich Nietzsche in Twilight of the Idols. « Music is in everything. A hymn comes forth from the earth. » Victor Hugo added. « There’s music in the sighing of a reed; There’s music in the gushing of a rill; There’s music in all things, if men had ears. » imagined George Gordon, Lord Byron on his Don Juan.

« Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy, » dixit Ludwig van Beethoven and I am in complete agreement with him on that. « Poetry is the music that every man carries inside himself, » decreed William Shakespeare (or else Joseph Bacon, according to some…). « Music puts the soul in harmony with all that exists, » Oscar Wilde joins in. « The vase gives form to emptiness, and music to silence, » thought Georges Braque about Day and Night. But the one who is really in total agreement with this essay, is…Voltaire: « Poetry is a kind of music; one must hear it in order to judge it, » in Philosophical Letters.

« The music is the expression of the highest artistic ideal; a reflection of Harmonies Celestial, it places man directly before the deepest mysteries of life, » dixit a certain Anonymous, quotation from the Spiritual Charter of Humanity. « Music alone has a place in the current world, precisely because it does not claim to say specific things, » claimed Mikhail Bakunin. « Music might not be the unique example of what might have been–if the invention of language, the formation of words, the analysis of ideas had not intervened–the means of communication between souls, » Marcel Proust further explained, thanks to this excerpt from La Prisonnière.

« I have always thought that writing was close to music, only much less pure, » declared Patrick Modiano in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Another great contemporary, a great orchestra conductor, Daniel Barenboim, gave us his opinion on the subject: « The music is infinitely greater and richer that what our society wants it to be: it is not only beautiful, moving, entrancing, comforting or passionate, even though, on occasion, it can be all that. The music is an essential part of the physical dimension of the human mind, » in La musique est un tout [The music is an everything], 2014. And the last word goes to the 2014 Nobel Laureate: « I have always envied musicians who to my mind practised an art which is higher than the novel. » Patrick Modiano in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature. And to top it all off: « As long as there will be one man left on earth to sing, we will be further allowed to hope, » said Gabriel Celaya on Paz y concierto [Peace and harmony]. And for love and balance, listen to the words of René Char: « A poet should leave traces of his passage, not proofs. Traces alone engender dreams. » So be it!















Constantin Frosin



Date and place of birth: October 12, 1952 in Vetreşti (Herăstrău), Vrancea County, Romania




Degree in philology: 1976 – University of Bucharest, Romania.

Doctor in Philology (Magna cum Laude): 2000 – University of Bucharest, with a thesis directed by Eugen SIMION of the Romanian Academy (« Schimbarea limbii, schimbarea scriiturii? »/Changement de langue ne signifie pas Transfiguration).



Language knowledge:

Romanian (mother tongue), English (fluent), Russian (good), French (excellent), Spanish (good), Italian (very good), German (moderate).



Professional duties:

Adjud Theoretical Lyceum (later Chemistry Lyceum): 1976 – full professor of language and French literature;

Centrale Industrielle Navale (CIN) Galaţi: 1980 – certified translator;

ICEPRONAV Galaţi: 1983 – certified translator;

Adjud Chemistry Lyceum: 1986 – teacher of language and French literature;

Porto-France Publishing House, Galaţi: 1990 – professional publisher: reader, editor;

Dunărea de Jos University of Galaţi: 1992 – associate professor of French; 1993 – tenured lecturer in French; 2000 – Doctor in Philology;

Danubius University of Galaţi: 2000 – visiting lecturer, 2001 – lecturer, 2003 – to present – University Professor



Member of various Academies:

1991 – Membre titulaire de l’Académie Francophone (Paris – Chambéry)

1991 – Membre titulaire de l’Académie Internationale Francophone (Bordeaux)

1998 – Membre titulaire de l’Académie Internationale de Lutèce (Paris)

2001 – Membre correspondent de l’Académie Européenne de Sciences, Arts et Lettres (on the invitation of Raymond Daudel, of the Institute)

2012 – Member and Doctor of Honour of the Balkan Academy

2012 – Foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences

2013 – Full member of the Academy of Ecological Sciences of the Republic of Moldova



International scholarships:

1998 – TEMPUS scholarship with the Università degli Studi di Torino (University of Turin)

2011 – ERASMUS scholarship with the Université Jean Monnet, Saint-Étienne, France.



Decorations and medals (selection)

1995 – European Parliament Medal « Trophy Gerner » (with Eugen SIMION and Marin Sorescu, of the Romanian Academy)

1998 – Médaille d’Argent « Le Rayonnement Culturel, » de la Renaissance Française

1999 – Médaille d’Or de l’Académie Internationale de Lutèce

2000 – Chevalier de l’Ordre national français des Arts et des Lettres

2003 – « Ioan Alexandru » translation prize

2004 – Knight of « Ordinul Meritul Cultural Român » (the Romanian Order of Cultural Merit)

2004 – Officier de l’Ordre national français des Palmes Académiques

2007 – Knight of the Order of Danubian Knights (Silver Medal)

2009 – Médaille d’Argent de la Société Académique Arts-Sciences-Lettres (Paris)

2009 – Officier de l’Ordre national français des Arts et des Lettres

2009 – Médaille d’Or du Mérite et Dévouement Français

2009 – Médaille d’Or pour la Littérature, SAPF (Société des Auteurs et Poètes de la Francophonie)

2012 – Médaille d’Or de la Renaissance Française


Prizes, diplomas, other titles (selection)

1994 – Translation prize of the « French-Romanian Foundation « Fronde »

1999 – Grand Prix de l’Académie Francophone

1999 – Grand Prize for Literature of the Italian Cultural Institute, Naples

2001 – Translation prize in modern languages of Romanian writers union

2003 – POESIAS European prize for poetry,

2005 – Diploma of Excellence of Galați County

2005 – International « Cultural Relations » prize of the writers’ union of the Republic of Moldova

2008 – Diploma of Excellence of the « Duiliu Zamfirescu » Vrancea County library

2008 – Diploma of Excellence of the Government of Romania

2008 – Diploma of Excellence of the « V. A. Urechea, » Galaţi County library

2008 – Diploma of Excellence of the Association « Gheorghe Tăbăcaru, » Bacău, 2008

2009 – Prix IV de la SAPF (Société des Auteurs et Poètes de la Francophonie)

2009 – Honourable mention in the international haiku competition « Mainichi Contest, » Japan

2010 – Prix du Micropoème, SAPF

2011 – Grand Prix International de Littérature – Poésie – SAPF


Visiting professor abroad:

1998 – Visiting Professor, Libero Istituto per Stranieri « Francesco de Sanctis »

1999 – Visiting Professor, Libero Istituto per Stranieri « Francesco de Sanctis »

2011 – Visiting Professor at the Université Jean Monnet, Saint-Étienne, France. (ERASMUS Staff Mobility)

2011 – Visiting Professor at the University of the South, Toulon-Var

2012 – Visiting Professor at the University of the South, Toulon-Var


NB. Many lectures at various cultural and literary events, for example, in 2004, at the town hall of Asnières, on the occasion of Balkan Culture Days.



Administrative and public functions:

2001 – Assistant director of the journal Le Droit international, notre avenir

2003 – 2005 – Founding dean of the faculty of communication and public relations, Danubius University in Galaţi

2005 – Founder of the faculty of international relationships and European studies, Danubius University

2008 – 2012 – Director of Danubius University Press of Danubius University in Galaţi

2005 – 2012 – to present – Director of the journal Le Courrier international de la Francophilie



Other functions

2004 – Honorary President of the Romanian Translators Association

2009 – ex-Honorary President of the Union of Romanian Veterans and their Widows

2008 – Honorary President of the International Union of Writers for the Peace

2002 – Honorary Member of the Association « Rencontres Européennes » (Paris)

2007 – Honorary Member of the Association « Printemps Roumain » (Lille)

2007 – Romanian delegate of the Société des Auteurs et Poètes de la Francophonie (SAPF)



Member of editorial boards:

« Nuove Lettere » (Italy)

« Le Courrier Francophone » (France)

« L’Europe Plurilingue » (Paris)

« Dunărea de Jos » (Galati)

« Grai » (Bistriţa)

Director and Editor in leader of his own journal « Le Courrier international de la Francophilie »

(150 pages A4 format, full colour), on the scientific committee including Academicians Jean CLUZEL, Jean DUTOURD, professors Pierre BRUNET, Daniel-Henri PAGEAUX, Axel MAUGEY, the Romanian academicians Eugen SIMION, Razvan THEODORESCU and others.



Scientific interests:

Theory and Art of Translation

Dictionary production

French-language Romanian literature

French-language Romanian poets

Spiritual geohistory of Europe

Francophonie – pan-European entity

Literature of the diaspora




Ikebana en miettes, Éditions Alma Galaţi, 1994

Mots de passe, Éditions l’Ancrier, Strasbourg, 1995

Dictionnaire d’argot Français-Roumain, Éditions Nemira, Bucarest, 1996

Techniques et Art de la Traduction, Ed. Fundaţiei Universitare « Dunărea de Jos, » Galaţi, 2000

Schimbarea limbii nu înseamnă schimbarea la faţă! Éditions Eminescu, Bucharest, 2000

Entre le Luth et le Marbre, Éditions Eminescu, Bucharest, 2001

Du non-sens au paradoxe, Éditions Le Brontosaure, Paris, 2002

Pensez-vous français? Éditions Le Brontosaure, Paris, 2002

La Traduction entre Mythe et Réalité, Éditions Le Brontosaure, Paris, 2003

À l’orée d’un bois (first anthology to date of French-language Romanian poets), Éditions du Centre Culturel Départemental Galaţi, 2006

Ces masques de derrière la tête, Éditions Le Brontosaure, Paris, 2009

L’Autre Cioran (Cioran lève le masque), Éditions l’Harmattan, Paris, 2010

L’Âme de l’Argile, Opera Magna, anthology, (TipoMoldova, Iasi, 2012

Mini-Anthologie de Poésie Roumaine, éd. TipoMoldova, Iasi, 2012



More than 100 scholarly articles, essays etc.. in French and French-language journals, such as: Revue de Littérature Comparée, French Studies (Oxford), Traversées, Défense de la Langue Française, Florilège, Visages du XX -e siècle, Parterre Verbal, Nuove Lettere, Le Courrier Francophone, Résu, La Braise et l’Étincelle, l’Etoile du Danube, le Courrier international de la Francophilie, and also in Internet magazines: Agonia, Hermeneia, Transcriptio, and more than 200 articles in Romanian magazines, including: Steaua, Poesis, Poezia, Contemporanul. Ideea europeană, Familia, Târnave, Porto Franco, Oglinda Literară, Pro Saeculum, Antares, Dunărea de Jos (and chapters in several multi-author books).




La revue française Feuillets artistiques et littéraires nr. 90/2000 written on page 19, by its director, Gustave Hodebert: « French literature should talk more often about the wonderful writer, Mihai Eminescu. Thanks to Professor Constantin FROSIN, who has translated the works of the Poet without betraying him, hope has been reborn and the enthusiasm of the eminent translator is very convincing. We are thinking that the essay by Professor Constantin FROSIN deserves a paper under the dome of our very scholarly Académie française! »

L’Anthologie « La Brigade » (Éditions ARCAM, Paris 2002, ISBN: 2-86476-527-6) introduces Constantin FROSIN as follows, in the words of René Bonnet de Murlive, coordinator of the anthology: « Professor Constantin FROSIN, eminent academic, First Francophone of Romania and who has French as a mother tongue, original Poet, lover of France and the French language, inherits the place of the scholar Dorat, l’Érudit de la Pléiade » (p. 6).

Valentin PROTOPOPESCU: « (…) Constantin FROSIN is above all a fearsome translator of Romanian into French. Writers translated by him include EMINESCU, CARAGIALE, ION BARBU, MARIN SORESCU (…) One thing is beyond any doubt: the humanist author from Galaţi is a superior intellectual, an individual who, devoted to the subtleties of thought, knows how to each time argue his affirmations, without appealing to – not even once – the superficial convenience of using sophisms. Without being a philosopher by profession or adoption, Constantin FROSIN writes with the rigour of a logician transformed into a grammarian and with the casualness of a scientist converted to literature » (in: Modestia unui cavaler/La modestie d’un chevalier, journal Observator cultural no. 122/June 2002)


Bio-bibliographical Sources

– DGLR (Dictionnaire Général de la Littérature Roumaine)

– Dicţionarul biografic al Literaturii române (Dictionnaire biographique de la Littérature roumaine)

– Who’s Who in France, 2005 – 2006 ff.

– Who is Who (Enciclopedia Personalităţilor din România/Encyclopédie des Personnalités de Roumanie), 2008

– « l’Esquirou » no. 35 – 36, 1997, Roger Coste (director of the journal) wrote under the heading Espace Francophone, Roumanie, an introduction of Constantin FROSIN, pp. 32 – 33;

– the journal « Le Journal à Sajat » presents two columns by Louis DELORME, for two volumes by Constantin Frosin, no. 57, March 2002, p. 75;

– Christiane ROEDERER, « Pourquoi des poètes en un temps d’indigence? » – Lecture given at the conference of the Association François Mauriac, at the University Exeter, July 2001, Éditions N’Ergo, Galati, ISBN: 973-97265-6-9, pp. 17-19 and 41-42;

– Valeriu Anghel, « Vrancea în spaţiul cultural european »/Vrancea dans l’espace culturel européen, Editura Pallas, Focşani, 2004, pp. 27 – 29;

– Valeriu ANGHEL, Constanţa COATU, « Constantin FROSIN – Un Roumain mondialisé par la Francophonie, » Éditions Le Brontosaure, Paris, 2006, ISBN: 2-9000742-113-0, 224 p;

– Laurent FELS, Daniel ARANJO et J-P GAVARD-PERRET, « Constantin FROSIN – Francophile roumain, » Éditions Poiêtês, Luxembourg, 2007, ISBN: 978-2-919942-33-6, 60 p.

– Jean-Paul GAVARD-PERRET, « Ce Peu qui est Tout (la poésie de Constantin FROSIN), » Éditions le Brontosaure, Paris, 2009, ISBN: 978-2-916974-26-2, 90 p.

– extensive presentations in journals such as « l’Encrier, » « l’Esquirou, » « Visages du XXe siècle » (in this journal, Roland the Cordier, for example, published an article entitled: Constantin FROSIN – un écrivain de culture française).

In Romania, extensive articles were dedicated to him by Ionel NECULA, Daniel CRISTEA-ENACHE, Coriolan PAUNESCU, Constantin DIMOFTE, Eugen SIMION and others.






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