The planctus or ‘complaint’ is a non-liturgical, devotional song which belongs to that large genre of musico-poetic composition known as the ‘sequence’, in which each stanza divides in half, marked by rhyme, and is sung to a repetition of the same music. Each new stanza normally receives new music, so the piece is in fact through-composed. Music was frequently re-used with different texts (contrafacta) and this planctus also exists, somewhat abbreviated, in both Middle English and Norman French versions. The monodic original is here accompanied by a second, improvised voice functioning essentially as a drone.
from notes by Paul Hillier © 1990