This is a collective designation for
the three chief forms of late medieval French poetry and music: ballade,
and rondeau. Their main period was the 14th century, under
the poet-composer Guillaume de Machaut.
After 1450 they gradually declined in importance, being replaced by freer
and more varied forms. All three forms have a refrain, which, however,
has an entirely different function in the rondeau from that in the two
other forms. The presence of a refrain as well as etymological considerations
("ballare," to dance; "virer," to turn round; and "rond," round) suggest
that originally they may have been dancing
The poem usually has three stanzas, each
of seven or eight lines, the last one or two of which are identical in
all the stanzas, thus forming a refrain. The form of the stanza is:
a b a b c d E or a b a b c d E F
(capital letters indicate the refrain), a scheme that, so far as the music
concerned, can be simplified as follows:
a a b C (a = ab; b=cd;
The Ballade plays a prominent role in
the work of Machaut, who treated it as a polyphonic composition of great
refinement and subtlety. His example was followed by the French and
Italian composers of the late 14th century. The form continued to
be cultivated, though much more sparingly, during the first half of the
15th century by composers such as Dufay,
The Ballade form, without refrain, was
adopted by the minnesingers under
the name Bar. The ballade is not to be confused with the Italian
"ballata" form, which is entirely different.
Also called "chanson balladee."
Consisted of a refrain (R) that usually alternates with three stanzas (S):
R-S1-R-S2-R-S3-R. The stanzas begin with two rhyming versicles and
close with a versicle paralleling the refrain. The musical structure
corresponds exactly to that of the poem, the two parallel versicles being
sung to the same music and the closing versicle to that of the refrain.
The entire musical structure is A b b a A b b a A b b a A b b a.
This same form appears in a strict version
in the 14th century Italian ballata
and in modified types like the laude
In its simplest, 13th-century form, consists
of eight short lines with a rather artificial repeat structure, line 1
being identical with lines 4 and 7, and line 2 with line 8. Lines
1 and 2 therefore form a refrain that recurs in part in the middle and
complete at the end. Music is composed for the refrain only (line
1=a, line 2=b) and is repeated according to the scheme A B a A a b A
B (capital letters indicating the refrain). Of the formes fixes,
the rondeau was the only one widely used after 1400.