De Plus en Plus de Binchois de Passacaille

De Plus en Plus de Binchois de Passacaille.wmv


Gilles de Bins, known as Binchois (ca. 1400-1460) was Franco-Flemish composer.
Along with Du Fay and Dunstaple, he is one of the three major musical figures from the first half of the 15th.
Although he not as innovative as Du Fay and Dunstaple in his compositions, more of his music was paraphrased and re-copied, hence, his influence more direct.He was employed at the Burgundian court of Philip the Great during the time where the focus of musical activity of the region was in the court.

Compositional background

The score can be accessed here, (No. 5),_Gilles)

Binchois composed De plus en plus around 1425, while under the service of William Pole, and earl of Suffolk. The earliest appearance of this piece was in Italy, indicating a wide distribution of his music despite a court-centric career.

Translation of text

More and more renews again
my sweet lady, noble and fair,
my wish to see you.
It gives me the very great desire
I have to hear news of you.
Do not heed that I hold back,
for always you are the one
whom I want to follow in every way.
More and more renews again,
my sweet lady, noble and fair,
my wish to see you.
Alas, if you were cruel to me,
I would have such anguish in my heart
that I would want to die.
But this would do you no wrong,
while supporting your cause.
More and more renews again,
my sweet lady, noble and fair,
my wish to see you.
It gives me the very great desire I have to hear news of you.


The form of this rondeau is ABaAabAB. The text is a love poem in the tradition of courtly love, or fine amour.
The Refrain A has three lines while the refrain B has two lines. The music in its entirety is heard in the first refrain. The same music is also used for the couplets. The full refrain text of both AB is only heard at the beginning and the end.
The piece is in 6/8 time, where imperfect tempus and major prolation is used.
The cantus or the top-most melody dotted figures, syncopations, and runs, moves quicker than the tenor and contratenor.
The crossing of rhythms to produce a hemiola effect is limited only to the tenor and the contratenor, as seen in measures 3, 10-11, and 13-14.
Much of cantus declaims the text syllabically, with a fluid and arching motion, while the two voices form a 2-part counterpoint in sixths and thirds.
The dissonances appear in a syncopated rhythm before the second to last note.
The harmony is consonant, as seen in the opening, with skips limited to the triads.
A notable unpredicted final is the cadential note in D, the final note of the piece, at the end of section B, where earlier candences hinted at C or G. This approach of an ambiguouis tonal centre is unique to Binchois’ chansons perhaps with the notion that the music should continue nonstop in cyclic fashion in order for the sectional nature of the rondeau form to be avoided.


Another polyphonic rondeau by Binchois is Adieu, m’amour et ma maitresse.

The score can be accessed here (No.2)


Link to the youtube video:

Compared to De plus en plus,the phrases are audibly shorter, with more subdued tenor and contratenor voices. Most of the stanzas in Adieu, m’amour are 8-syllables lines.
The tenor and contratenor in this rondeau are less active, holding just one note for the duration of the measure.
The melismatic runs employed by the cantus are less synchopated in rhythm, and are fairly equal in length at the end of each stanza. The simplicity of this piece is as described

“Most striking is the extreme economy of material of Adieu m’amour  is a mere perfunctory stringing together of cadence formulas, but which when seen in the context of a careful deployment of cadential pitches, a precise balance of phrase lengths, a wide range of passing dissonances and a precisely calculated melodic peak is merely another aspect of the restrained but refined courtly tradition within which Binchois worked.” (Brown, 1963).


Binchois is the most important composer of the Burgundy court, and he was particularly esteemed for his chanson.  This piece was chosen because the fluidity and unpredictable cantus and the juxtaposition of the tenor and contratenor. I find the unique approach to the tonal centre of this piece particularly interesting. This piece truly expresses his style of music and epitomizes the concept of a Burgundian tradition in music.


Binchois, Gilles. 16 Secular Songs. Score. IMSLP. Accessed Febuary 5, 2014.

Burkholder, Peter J., Donald J. Grout. A History of Western Music. Eighth Edition. W.W. Norton Company, 2010.

"De Plus en Plus de Binchois de Passacaille.wmv." YouTube Video, 3:52. Posted by "passacailleautre," upload date Jan 17, 2012.

D. Slavin: ‘Some Distinctive Features of Songs by Binchois: Cadential Voice Leading and the Articulation of Form’, JM, x (1992), 342–61.

Fallows, David. "Binchois, Gilles de Bins dit." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.

"Gilles Binchois: Adieu m'amour et ma maistresse." YouTube Video, 3:30. Posted by "Theologoumena Musicae," upload date March 12, 2010.

Grout, Donald Jay, Peter J. Burkholder, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music, New York: W.W.Norton Company, 2010.