The nine songs that figure in the Voir Dit
were all evidently the work of Machaut himself: they are attributed to him in the tale and are found with their music amongst his other musical works in the surviving manuscripts. The first to appear is Plourés dames
(Ballade 32, which Machaut probably wrote during the long illness he tells us he suffered over the winter of 1361 until the summer of the following year. Thinking he would succumb to this malady, he wrote this mournful song as his ‘testament’, and later sends it with his first letter to Toute Belle. He asks his charge to learn it since it isn’t difficult and he is most pleased with it. The song is in ballade form, the most expansive of the short ‘fixed’ forms favoured by poets and composers at the time, and one Machaut used for his more ambitious songs. Its text reflects the author’s sorrowful state: it begs ladies, whose honour he has served so tirelessly, to weep on his behalf and to dress in black to mark his imminent demise. The musical setting, like that of Ne que on porroit
(Ballade 33) and Se pour ce muir
(Ballade 36), is elaborate and sophisticated in style. Its texted melody, heard in the upper voice, is characterized by extensive melismas and is accompanied by an untexted duo that provides rich (and occasionally spicily dissonant) contrapuntal support. This song shares with Ne que on porroit
three distinctive melodic motifs that are often heard in sequence: a short initial statement; a brief ascent that is often coupled with a downward leap; and a sinuous, melismatic descent, which Machaut had already explored in several earlier songs.
from notes by Yolanda Plumley © 2013