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The formes fixes (French: [fɔʁm fiks] ; singular: forme fixe, "fixed form") are the three 14th- and 15th-century French poetic forms: the ballade , rondeau , and virelai . Each was also a musical form, generally a chanson , and all consisted of a complex pattern of repetition of verses and a refrain with musical content in two main sections.
All three forms can be found in 13th-century sources, but a 15th-century source gives Philippe de Vitry as their first composer while the first comprehensive repertory of these forms was written by Guillaume de Machaut.The formes fixes stopped being used in music around the end of the 15th century, although their influence continued (in poetry they, especially the rondeau, continued to be used ).
Sometimes forms from other countries and periods are referred to as formes fixes. These include the Italian 14th-century madrigal and later ballata and barzelletta, the German bar form, Spanish 13th-century cantiga, and the later canción, and villancico.
Guillaume de Machaut was a French composer and poet who was the central figure of the ars nova style in late medieval music. His dominance of the genre is such that modern musicologists use his death to separate the ars nova from the subsequent ars subtilior movement. Regarded as the most significant French composer and poet of the 14th century, he is often seen as the century's leading European composer.
Rondo is an instrumental musical form introduced in the Classical period.
The ballade is a form of medieval and Renaissance French poetry as well as the corresponding musical chanson form. It was one of the three formes fixes and one of the verse forms in France most commonly set to music between the late 13th and the 15th centuries.
A chanson is generally any lyric-driven French song, though it most often refers to the polyphonic French song of late medieval and Renaissance music. The genre had origins in the monophonic songs of troubadours and trouvères, though the only polyphonic precedents were 16 works by Adam de la Halle and one by Jehan de Lescurel. Not until the ars nova composer Guillaume de Machaut did any composer write a significant number of polyphonic chansons.
Ars nova refers to a musical style which flourished in the Kingdom of France and its surroundings during the Late Middle Ages. More particularly, it refers to the period between the preparation of the Roman de Fauvel (1310s) and the death of composer Guillaume de Machaut in 1377. The term is sometimes used more generally to refer to all European polyphonic music of the fourteenth century. For instance, the term "Italian ars nova" is sometimes used to denote the music of Francesco Landini and his compatriots, although Trecento music is the more common term for the contemporary 14th-century music in Italy. The "ars" in "ars nova" can be read as "technique", or "style". The term was first used in two musical treatises, titled Ars novae musicae by Johannes de Muris, and a collection of writings attributed to Philippe de Vitry often simply called "Ars nova" today. Musicologist Johannes Wolf first applied to the term as description of an entire era in 1904.
Ars subtilior is a musical style characterized by rhythmic and notational complexity, centered on Paris, Avignon in southern France, and also in northern Spain at the end of the fourteenth century. The style also is found in the French Cypriot repertory. Often the term is used in contrast with ars nova, which applies to the musical style of the preceding period from about 1310 to about 1370; though some scholars prefer to consider ars subtilior a subcategory of the earlier style. Primary sources for ars subtilior are the Chantilly Codex, the Modena Codex, and the Turin Manuscript.
F. Andrieu was a French composer in the ars nova style of late medieval music. Nothing is known for certain about him except that he wrote Armes, amours/O flour des flours, a double ballade déploration, for the death of Guillaume de Machaut in 1377. The work has been widely praised and analyzed; it is notable for being one of two extant medieval double ballades for four voices, the only known contemporary musical setting of Eustache Deschamps and the earliest representative of the longstanding medieval and Renaissance lamentation tradition between composers. He may be the same person as Magister Franciscus, although the scholarly consensus on this identification is unclear. With P. des Molins, Jehan Vaillant and Grimace, Andrieu was one of the "post-Machaut" generation whose pieces retain enough ars nova qualities to be differentiated from composers of ars subtilior.
A lai is a lyrical, narrative poem written in octosyllabic couplets that often deals with tales of adventure and romance. Lais were mainly composed in France and Germany, during the 13th and 14th centuries. The English term lay is a 13th-century loan from Old French lai. The origin of the French term itself is unclear; perhaps it is itself a loan from German Leich (reflected in archaic or dialectal English lake, "sport, play" and in modern Swedish. The terms note, nota and notula appear to have been synonyms for lai.
The Burgundian School was a group of composers active in the 15th century in what is now northern and eastern France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, centered on the court of the Dukes of Burgundy. The school inaugurated the music of Burgundy.
Robert Morton was an English composer of the early Renaissance, mostly active at the Burgundian court. He was highly regarded at the time. Only secular vocal music, all Rondeaux for three voices, survive.
A virelai is a form of medieval French verse used often in poetry and music. It is one of the three formes fixes and was one of the most common verse forms set to music in Europe from the late thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries.
A rondeau is a form of medieval and Renaissance French poetry, as well as the corresponding musical chanson form. Together with the ballade and the virelai it was considered one of the three formes fixes, and one of the verse forms in France most commonly set to music between the late 13th and the 15th centuries. It is structured around a fixed pattern of repetition of material involving a refrain. The rondeau is believed to have originated in dance songs involving alternating singing of the refrain elements by a group and of the other lines by a soloist. The term "Rondeau" is today used both in a wider sense, covering several older variants of the form – which are sometimes distinguished as the triolet and rondel – and in a narrower sense referring to a 15-line variant which developed from these forms in the 15th and 16th centuries. The rondeau is unrelated with the much later instrumental dance form that shares the same name in French baroque music, which is an instance of what is more commonly called the rondo form in classical music.
Solage, possibly Jean So(u)lage, was a French composer, and probably also a poet. He composed the most pieces in the Chantilly Codex, the principal source of music of the ars subtilior, the manneristic compositional school centered on Avignon at the end of the century.
France has a rich music history that was already prominent in Europe as far back as the 10th century. French music originated as a unified style in medieval times, focusing around the Notre-Dame school of composers. This group developed the motet, a specific musical composition. Notable in the high Middle Ages were the troubadours and trouvères soon began touring France, composing and performing many original songs. The styles of ars nova and ars subtilior sprung up in the 14th century, both of which focused on secular songs. As Europe moved into the Renaissance age, the music of France evolved in sophistication. The popularity of French music in the rest of Europe declined slightly, yet the popular chanson and the old motet were further developed during this time. The epicenter of French music moved from Paris to Burgundy, as it followed the Burgundian School of composers. During the Baroque period, music was simplified and restricted due to Calvinist influence. The air de cour then became the primary style of French music, as it was secular and preferred by the royal court.
The Chantilly Codex is a manuscript of medieval music containing pieces from the style known as the Ars subtilior. It is held in the museum at the Château de Chantilly in Chantilly, Oise.
Pierre Fontaine was a French composer of the transitional era between the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, and a member of the Burgundian School of composers. While he was well known at the time, most of his music has probably been lost. All of his surviving music is secular, and all his compositions are chansons.
Grimace was a French composer-poet in the ars nova style of late medieval music. Virtually nothing is known about Grimace's life other than speculative information based on the circumstances and content of his five surviving compositions of formes fixes; three ballades, a virelai and rondeau. He is though to have been a younger contemporary of Guillaume de Machaut and based in southern France. Three of his works were included in the Chantilly Codex, which is an important source of ars subtilior music. However, along with P. des Molins, Jehan Vaillant and F. Andrieu, Grimace was one of the post-Machaut generation whose music shows few distinctly ars subtilior features, leading scholars to recognize Grimace's work as closer to the ars nova style of Machaut. His most often performed work in modern-times is the virelai and proto-battaglia: A l’arme A l’arme.
Antonello da Caserta, also Anthonello de Casetta, Antonellus Marot, was an Italian composer of the medieval era, active in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.
P. des Molins, probably Pierre des Molins, was a French composer-poet in the ars nova style of late medieval music. His two surviving compositions – the ballade De ce que fol pensé and rondeau Amis, tout dous vis – were tremendously popular as they are among the most transmitted pieces of fourteenth-century music. The ballade is found in 12 medieval manuscript sources and featured in a c. 1420 tapestry; the rondeau is found in 8 sources and referenced by the Italian poet Simone de' Prodenzani. Along with Grimace, Jehan Vaillant and F. Andrieu, Molins was one of the post-Guillaume de Machaut generation whose music shows few distinctly ars subtilior features, leading scholars to recognize Molins's work as closer to the ars nova style of Machaut.
Gilbert Reaney was an English musicologist who specialized in medieval and Renaissance music, theory and literature. Described as "one of the most prolific and influential musicologists of the past century", Reaney made significant contributions to his fields of expertise, particularly on the life and works of Guillaume de Machaut, as well as medieval music theory.