Home » Pubblicazioni » Rivista di Analisi e Teoria Musicale (RATM) » Anno 2017/2 » The Ballade as Formal Playground. With a Postscript on “Improvisation” and “Composition”

The Ballade as Formal Playground. With a Postscript on “Improvisation” and “Composition”

Jesse Rodin - pag. 195-215

The polyphonic formes fixes — rondeau, virelai, and ballade — remain ripe for further exploration. This essay argues that each subgenre creates formal affordances that condition a unique experiential starting point. Because the ballade incorporates the least textual and musical repetition of the three, it is the most open-ended, formally speaking. A survey of the ten ballades attributed to Guillaume Du Fay serves as a baseline for a study of what might be the most extraordinary setting of the period: Resvellies vous, composed in 1423 for a Malatesta wedding in Rimini. The song’s unpar- alleled invention points up the freedom — and the challenges — conditioned by the ballade form. An analysis of Du Fay’s song reveals how the composer negotiated the form in setting this dedicatory text, and identifies the benefits and the costs of a compositional approach centered on heterogeneity and virtuosity. A short postscript, which reflects on the analytical methodologies of this essay and all the contributions in this issue of RATM, highlights the challenge of distinguishing between the overlapping practices of “improvisation” and “composition.”

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