The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018


Cacophony: Harsh, unpleasant, or discordant sounds. Cacophony is the opposite of euphony, pleasing or harmonious sounds. Cacophony can be either unintentional or purposely used for artistic effect.

EXAMPLES: In his long poem The Bridge (1930), Hart Crane wrote cacophonously to convey the chaotic energy, the sinister unworldliness, of the modern industrial world:

The nasal whine of power whips a new universe …

Where spouting pillars spoor the evening sky,

Under the looming stacks of the gigantic power house

Stars prick the eyes with sharp ammoniac proverbs,

New verities, new inklings in the velvet hummed

Of dynamos, where hearing’s leash is strummed …

Power’s script, — wound, bobbin-bound, refined —

Is stopped to the slap of belts on booming spools, spurred

Into the bulging bouillon, harnessed jelly of the stars.

Pop culture examples of cacophony may be found in Lou Reed’s grinding Metal Machine Music (1975), in music associated with the industrial rock movement, and in many songs recorded by the rock group Nine Inch Nails.