Formes fixes

Formes fixes

Formes fixes (English: fixed forms) are French poetic forms of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries which were translated into musical forms, particularly the forms of songs. Specifically, these forms were the ballade, rondeau, and virelai. These forms all consist of a complex pattern of repetition of verses and a refrain, with the musical content in two main sections. All three of these forms can be found in thirteenth century sources, but a fifteenth century source gives Philippe de Vitry as the first composer in these forms. The first comprehensive repertory of these forms was written by Guillaume de Machaut.

The formes fixes stopped being used literally in music around the end of the fifteenth century, although their influence continued, and the poetic forms continued to be used by poets, especially the rondeau.

Sometimes forms from other countries and periods are referred to as formes fixes. These include the Italian fourteenth century madrigal and later ballata and barzelletta, the German bar form, Spanish 13th century cantiga, and the later canción, and villancico.


David Fallows. "Formes Fixes", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (accessed September 16 2006), (subscription access).


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