Troubadour Medieval Musicians

What were medieval Troubadours

Medieval Troubadours were musicians during the medieval period. They can also be described as school poets who were most popular in southern France and northern Italy during the 11th to the 13th century. They were responsible for cultivating a certain kind of lyrical poetry highly characterized by intricate meter and rhyming, which was usually romantic in nature.

Who did Medieval Troubadours entertain

Medieval Troubadours were traveling musicians that went from village to village. Some of them even travelled abroad to major cities in Europe. These musicians sang songs about chivalry and courtly love. Most these musicians visited houses and castles of royalty and entertained kings, as well as lords and nobles. Some members of the medieval troubadours were knights and nobles who joined the crusades and became lyrical poets.

Troubadour definition

By definition, a Troubadour can be defined as a writer of poetry or performer of songs and ballads during the Middle Ages. They are poet-musicians that were often of knightly class. Others define troubadours as singers of folk songs. There were several kinds of medieval musicians but two of the most common and famous are the Minstrels and Troubadours. The troubadours became elite musicians called the Trouveres.

Medieval Troubadours

Medieval Troubadours play medieval music

Troubadour Music

The Troubadour music was usually monophonic. It consists of a melody without accompanying harmony. This was characterised with just one note at a time which was duplicated in an octave. Most of these melodies were composed by the Troubadours themselves. Meanwhile, others were set to pre-existing forms.

Troubadour lyrics

Troubadour lyrics were also known as medieval lyrics. The text of these melodies were usually about chivalry and courtly love. Some were also about combat and mostly metaphysical and intellectual. Some were humorous in nature while others were vulgar and satirical. Before the 12th century, love and women were rarely mentioned in these lyrical masterpieces. They mostly revolved around men’s passion for combat. However, this was changed as the French Trouveres and the love poets from Germany called Minnesingers, replaced epic combat tales with words narrating passionate love stories.

Medieval Troubadour Musicians Music

Troubadour music can also be grouped into three major types. First was the trobar leu which was a light style in poetry. Second is trobar ric which is a rich form of poetry and highly distinguished because of its verbal gymnastics. The last one is the trobar clus which is a closed form of poetry. The latter was considered to be obscure and complex, and were often only appreciated by the elite class. Nevertheless, Troubadour music had several genres. The most popular were canso, sirventes and tensos. The latter two were most popular during the classical periods in Italy.

Troubadour songs

There were several kinds of Troubadour songs. Some of the genres of troubadour songs were as follows:

  • Arabic songs – these referred to songs sung by Muslim prisoners from Muslim kingdoms, who were trained on love songs popular in the courts of al-Andalus.
  • Bernardine-Marianist or Christian – these songs gave more emphasis on religious and spiritual love.
  • Celtic or Chivalric-Matriarchal – these were pre-Christian songs on sexual mores and warrior codes.
  • Classical Latin – these were latin songs that gave emphasis to parallels between Ovid and the lyric of courtly love.
  • Liturgical – there were songs developed from Christian liturgy and hymnody
  • Folklore or Spring Folk Ritual – these were songs used for festive dances of women.
  • Medieval Latin – these were songs characterized by intertextual connection between vernacular lyrics and medieval Latin.

What instruments did Medieval Troubadours play

Music was a major form of entertainment especially during the medieval period. The medieval period was also rich in different musical instruments. But the oldest instrument used by Troubadours was the human voice. The troubadours also played different kinds of flute. They also played a number of neck-stringed instruments as well as lutes. Some of them played guitars such as those in Spain, while others played harps and lyres in places like Britain and Scandinavia.

History of Medieval Troubadours Musicians

The earliest troubadours can be traced back to the 10th century. The earliest works that survived were from Guilhem de Peitieus, also known as Duke William IX of Aquitaine. However, during the 2nd half of the 12th century, few records of troubadour music were found. But only in the last decades of the century when this kind of music was finally recognised and made popular. According to historians, almost half of troubadour lyrics from 11th century to the first half of 12th century survived the dark ages.

The classical period for troubadour music lasted from 1170 to 1213. It was during this period when troubadours music reached its peak in popularity. It was also then when the canso or love songs became a widely recognized genre. The rules of poetic composition were also written during this period. The classical period of troubadour music lasted until the 15th century outside of Occitania.

Summary of Troubadours Musicians

Medieval music was rich and highly poetic. It also had several influences including those of the Arab-Muslims, German singers and French poets. The Troubadoors were the ones who paved the way to these rich musical influences through their travels abroad and from village to village.

Music introduced and sung by Troubadours started with ideals about courtly love, courage and passion for combat as well as chivalric deeds. These lyrical and literary works were widespread throughout Europe, even Spain and Scandinavia.

Medieval Troubadours sang ballads from courtly love to passionate love stories. The basics were laid down by the troubadours and were adopted by the French Trouvères and the German Minnesingers who were considered as love poets, among other musicians during the middle ages.

The popularity of Troubadours ended after the 13th century Albigensian crusade. However, their legacy continued and helped shape the ideas and themes of European literature and music in the succeeding centuries.

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