The Trouvères were poet-musicians in the medieval times best known for composing a huge array of vernacular songs in French. Their musical contribution lasted for centuries and their influence spread throughout Europe. The Trouveres were lyrical musicians in the medieval era who specialized in writing and singing vernacular poetry. They emerged immediately after the Troubadours and rose in popularity. Though still Troubadours, Trouveres were of noble lineage. Most of them hailed from northern France and wrote their lyrics in French. Mainly because of their background, Trouveres produced finer music and poetry than most Troubadours.
The Trouveres entertained members of the aristocracy and members of the peerage were keen patrons of poet-musicians who personally performed for them or during festive occasions (e.g. dinner banquets, courtship and jousts). A number of Medieval Trouveres were nobles and knights. Royal Trouveres included England’s King Richard the Lionheart and the monarchs of Spain and Navarre (Thibaut de Champagne). The minstrel of Richard the Lionheart, Blondel de Nesle, was also a celebrated singer-poet. He took part in the Crusades and was famous for composing around twenty-five courtly songs. Another famous Trouvere was Chatelaine de Coucy. His vast legacy of lyrical music spanned twenty-three chansons.
The Trouveres refer to a movement of elite poet-musicians in Northern France that began in the eleventh century and whose influence spread across Europe until the fourteenth century.
Medieval Trouvere musicians sang monophonic songs. Though historical records could not clearly establish how they performed in court and whether any instrumental accompaniment was used, it is almost definite that their music was divided into preludes, interludes and postludes. Trouveres musicians made use of several musical forms, covering a variety of poetic themes and verses. There were four general types of Trouvere music. One form was similar to a litany, whereby a short phrase required multiple repetitions.
There were also festive songs with refrains, non-repetitive composed lyrical songs and pairs of repetitive monophonic lines. Non-repetitive stanzas within a composition were called the vers and the chansons. The only difference between the two is that the latter has a short opening section that needs to be repeated and a portion of this section may sometimes reappear at the end of the song. Many surviving Trouvere medieval musicians compositions include notations which showcase the pitch of every note though not the length or emphasis.
Lyrics in Trouveres Music. As elite medieval musicians, the Trouveres created secular poetry usually on love and valor and most likely sung a cappella if not with the aid of an instrument. The Trouveres travelled a great deal to find patrons so their existence was closely linked with the aristocracy. However, many of their patrons also came from the middle classes. Arras citizens who delved in music and poetry were credited for majority of existing Trouvere lyrics.
Popular Trouvere love songs include the alba or dawn song (consisting of lyrics about lovers separating at dawn after spending a night together), the canso (a five or six-stanza song about courtly love sung using a single voice), the pastorelle (a knight’s attempt to woo a country lady) and the dansa (a more jovial type of musical love poetry). Trouvere musicians also composed poetry beyond the subject of love. The sirventes was a lyrical composition that discussed politics in court.
Like the Troubadours, Trouveres sang their poems while playing an instrument with catgut strings. Some of the most widely used string instruments in the Medieval era were the cittern, the citole and the lute (ancestors of the modern guitar). The harp is another beloved Medieval instrument that the medieval musicians like the Trouveres and Troubadors used to serenade their audience.
From ordinary poets and musicians, the role that Medieval Troubadors played in society eventually evolved into one associated with the royalty and nobility. Hence, the Trouveres. The Crusades had a significant influence in the continuous emergence of poet-musicians but it was Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of Richard the Lionheart, who made the culture of music and poetry flourish in the Middle Ages. She was a great patron of music.