The Lay – its form – Guillaume de Machault’s achievement The Lay, at the time when Machault decided to apply his genius to this particular genre of music-poetry, had in the preceding two or three centuries developed the characteristic 12-strophe form that Machault would use almost exclusively. Its origins seem to lie in the Breton-Celtic area, although we don’t possess any surviving examples of this early stage. Subsequent development of the style was carried out by the trouvres in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Lay shares with the Sequens a formal setup in which each musical strophe is provided with double or quadruple text, except the first and last strophes which are usually single. This form must have held a singular fascination for Mauchault since he left no less than 24 specimens in this genre which was moreover virtually extinct at the moment of his arrival. No other comtemporary composer, nor any of the generation immediately preceding or following, seems to have had any appetite for a type of composition which by virtue of its size alone, required a new way of controlling musical and lyrical organization.Download booklet
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