Les Barricades Mystérieuses

The Title Music Fiction Non-Fiction Poetry Visual Arts Film Performance

François Couperin's piece for harpsichord, Les Barricades Mystérieuses or Les Barricades Mistérieuses (The Mysterious Barricades), has caught the imagination of many artists, writers and musicians. These pages are devoted to charting the works it has inspired. If you know of any references to the piece in novels, poems, paintings, or other pieces of music, I would be grateful to be informed about them: sevnine@miami.edu


The Swiss francophone poet Philippe Jaccottet mentions Couperin's piece a couple of times in his notebooks. In La Semaison (1971), one entry reads:


To keep things in their rightful place and not let death encroach on life in vain. Necessity, blessing of limitations (re-reading Henri Michaux, with unbroken admiration).

Let limitations be like the old walls of these forests, these fields: old, human, evoking less a stop, a closure, than a kind of justice and a putting in order, too, without pedantry, fertile. Mysterious barricades. Fruitful measure.


(Translated by Michael Hamburger in Seedtime, 1977, p. 48.)


In a more recent work, Ce peu de bruits (2008, p. 79), he writes:


Bernard Simeone: the 'Mysterious Barricades' that he loved to hear played on the harpsichord will not have protected him.


(Translated by John Taylor in And, Nonetheless: Selected Poetry and Prose, New York: Chelsea Editions, 2011. Many thanks to John Taylor for alerting me to this reference.) The reference is to the French writer and music critic Bernard Simeone whose own novella Cavatina mentions the work multiple times.


Jaccottet is the cousin of the harpsichordist Christiane Jaccottet.



A French radio documentary, by Philippe Gumplowicz and Christine Robert, about the philosopher and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari, and the group around him in the 1960s and 70s, is entitled "Les barricades mystérieuses : La bande à Félix Guattari". The documentary was originally broadcast on the 14th March, 2011, as part of the program France Culture and in places, it uses Couperin's composition. The piece was inspired by a photo of members of the circle that re-surfaced in 2010, following the publication of a Wikipedia article:


Photo of Guattari and his group.


The documentary can be heard here (there may be problems playing this if you are using Chrome):