C. Hahn, "Numerical Composition:"
A Study of Pythagorean-Platonic Ideas in the
Making of the Rondeaux of Guillaume de Machaut
(Ph.D. Thesis, Stanford University, 1993)
his doctoral thesis, David Hahn analyzed the
methods Machaut used in composing the polyphonic
rondeaux (a 14th century French forme fixe).
His study included the ways which contemporary
cultural notions such as the "Wheel of
Fortune" were replicated in Machaut's rondeaux
techniques. Machaut's most famous rondeau, Ma
fin est mon commencement contains several levels
of circularity. Its verse is circular--the refrain
is palindromic and begins and ends with the
same word. It also reflects Christian cosmology--the
death of Christ, the end of his worldly life,
is a new spiritual beginning. In 14th century
courtly poetry, love is often circularly linked
with death--life begins with love and ends with
death--this works particularly well in French,
which can easily equate the sounds of the words
"m'amor" and "ma mort."