Secular and Cathedral Music in the High Middle Ages
Troubadours: There were simple structure castles; the rule was an aristocrat, not a noble.
These aristocrats were called the troubadours; they had to be poets and musicians to rule the
castle. Their poetry is extremely nuanced. The music suggests what the content of the poetry is.
- The earliest secular repertories come from knightly poets
- Very highly organized society
- The first written-down knightly songs originated in Aquitaine, in European vernacular
(local language spoken)
- William (Guillaume) IX was the first vernacular poet whose work has come down to us
- The language William IX used was Provencal.
- In Provencal poetry was called “trobar”, meaning words “found”, a poet was called a
trobador, a “finder” of words.
- Troubadours wrote about their lives, their social and amorous relations, which were
ceremonial, idealized, and ritualized to a point approaching the sacred.
- Many songs dealt with feudal service that reflected the hierarchical structure of lords and
vassals. Land was owned by the King which was parceled out to the greatest noblest, who
in turn gave it to less nobler, etc. The bond between the lord and the vassal was deal
downright liturgically; the vassal swore an oath of loyalty that obliged him to perform
duties, including military service. The lord in turn bound himself to protect the vassal.
Types of Songs
Sirventes: from vassal to lord about knightly service or political alliance
Enueg: complaining about infractions of knightly decorum
Gap: glorified one’s own exploits or issued a challenge
Planh: a eulogy on death of a lord
Canso: a love song, love celebrated by knightly singers.
- The troubadours themselves called canso : fin’ amors, “refined love”, which emphasized
the idolization of a beloved lady.
- The most famous of all cansos is called “Can vei la lauzeta mover” by Bernat de
Ventradorn. The song is about the most tragic love of all time.
This song is in strophic form, in which all the stanzas have the same rhyme scheme and
are sung to the same music. Rhyme Scheme: ABABCDCD
- Can vei la lauzeta mover is monophonic, is freer, syllabic, there are fluid rhythms, more
secular as opposed to sacred. Dorian mode (on the sad side), Performance and Oral Culture
- The higher the style of a troubadour melody, the more likely it was to have similarities
- Some troubadour songs effected a mock-popular style that may have drawn stylistically
not on chant but on otherwise-unrecorded folk idioms.
- There is a genre called passtorela in which a knight seduces a shepherdress. The best-
known and earliest example of this genre is “L’autrier jost’ una sebissa”. This song
mizes latin verses with vernacular ones. Rhyme Scheme: AAABAAB
- Text that mix languages are called “marcaronic”.
- “Minstrels” are professionals of a lower caste, singer-entertainers called joglars in
- The written documentation of the troubadour when the tradition was dying, more poems
survive than music.
- The manuscripts containing the troubadours’ songs is called chasonniers. There are
biographies of the poets call vidas
- Four poems are contributed by Cometessa de Dia a trobairitz (female troubadour), the
one that survives with a melody is “A chanter m’er de so qu’ieu non volrai”. Rhyme
Scheme AAAABAB. The tune alternates cadences on E and D, common in the dances
and dance songs of a slightly later period. There nuances, getting the audience captivated
for what will be happening next. Instrumental music is an educated guessed.
Music for Elites: Trobar Clus
Tenso: an often-jesting debate song that involves two or more participants and that was
sometimes actually a joint composition by two or more poets.
Trobar Clus: a tenso about “closed” or difficult poetry for connoisseurs
Trobar Leu: a “light” poetry designed for immediate please and easy communication
Trouveres: earliest imitations of Provencal lyrics in northern France, by the poet-musicians
called “trouveres” gathered strength in the 13 century as the troubadours declined.
- “Jan nun hons pris” is by a trouvere called Richard the Lionheart. Musical structure of
AAB - Richard Lionheart was the King of England
- There is a genre called chason de toile, which is a narrative song in a folk like style.
Adam de la Halle and the Formes Fixes
Pastourelle: form concerining the romance of a shepherdress.
- In Paris and Arras musical activity blossomed and came to be organized along lines
comparable in some respects to craft guilds. This tendency was epitomized in the
“Confrèrie des jongleurs et des bourgeois d’Arras”, a religious guild which became a
sponson of musico-poetic pursuits.
- The three most important trouveres from the 13 century are Moniot d’Arras, Jehan
Bretel, and Adam de la Halle.
- The most famous pastourelle in the repertory is “Ce fut en mai”. This is assumed to be a
dance song ac