Song of the Troubadour

Bernart de Ventadorn [1130-1190] represents one of the finest examples of the Occitan poetry of the troubadours of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. He is now thought of as “the Master Singer” he developed the cansos into a more formalized style which allowed for sudden turns and twists as can be heard in the music below.  Bernart was known for being able to portray his woman as a divine agent in one moment and then in a sudden twist, portraying her as Eve, the cause of man’s initial sin.

He composed his first poems to his patron’s wife, Marguerite de Turenne. However, he was forced to leave Ventadour after falling in love with Marguerite, so he traveled to Montluçon and Toulouse, and eventually followed Eleanor of Aquitaine to England.

Forty-five of his poems survive, eighteen of which have musical accompaniment.

This performance was from the Festival TROBAREA 2009 à Gréolières (France, O6)
http://vesubiales.free.fr

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10 thoughts on “Song of the Troubadour

  1. Very nice. A variation of the language, referred to as Oc. is still spoken here and is under going a revival. There is Oc Radio and a lively tradition of the culture and the spoken tongue. If you try to read it, it is a degraded form of latin. It declines like latin, but the farther north you go, the more germanic and celt influences are heard, the more you go towards Spain, the more Mediterrenean it becomes.
    I posted some contemporary musicians playing vielles, which are operated with cranks which turn a disk which vibrates strings. The strings are played with wooden keys which depress them against the turning disc.
    While the troubadour songs are languid and poetic, the bourrees of the folk tradition are wild and meant to inspire dance.

  2. It is a wonder, Microdot, that we even have this troubadour music at all. Surely you recall the Albigensian Crusade in which many troubadours were caught up because their patrons were either sympathetic to the heretics or heretics themselves.

    Such is the ‘wonder’ of fundamental [c]hristian benevolence.

    A variation of the language, referred to as Oc. is still spoken here and is under going a revival.

    It seems to me that I read that there are some kindergartens in your area where the children are learning Oc. Great idea!

  3. Laci- thanks for the link. I clicked on that Amazon book
    and a quick synopsis reads:

    A distinguished scholar troduces readers to the Occitania, an important region of France during the eleventh and twelfth centuries where women held important positions of power, including the remarkable Ermengard, ruler of Narbonne, who led her city through a complex and fragile time.

    No wonder the Catholic Church wanted to get rid of these ‘progressive’ women and that wonderful ‘modern’ music of the troubadours!

  4. Laci, the word Oc is yes and your explanation is the accepted version in most of France. A variety is the official language in Andorra and the most closely related modern tongue is Catalan.
    Interesting to compare languages, the same phrase:
    English
    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood
    French
    Tous les êtres humains naissent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits. Ils sont doués de raison et de conscience et doivent agir les uns envers les autres dans un esprit de fraternité.
    Lemosin
    Totas las personas naisson liuras e egalas en dignitat e en drech. Son dotadas de rason e de consciéncia e lor chau (/fau) agir entre elas emb un esperit de frairesa.
    Auvernhat
    Totas las personas naisson liuras e egalas en dignitat e en dreit. Son dotadas de rason e de consciéncia e lor chau (/fau) agir entre elas amb un esperit de frairesa

    Where I live, the dialect is Auvernhat, but 2 centuries ago, the regional variations were more subtle and a person traveling 100 kilometers from his region, might have had trouble making himself understood.

    It was the markets, commerce which began to standardize the language. The same commerciants would travel from market to market. You knew that the dentist would always be in Thenon on Wednesdays or Montignac on Thursday.
    Theae market days have been the same for hundreds of years.
    I have to take some photos of market day in Terrasson. The little stalls are set up on the 12th century Benedictine Bridge over the Vezere.

  5. You’re welcome.

    I’ve heard some French speakers says Dac or Doc for Oui who weren’t from that part of the world. The explanation was that it was a contraction for D’accord. I’m not sure how much I accept that.

  6. Gentlemen: your discussion of language brings up an interesting philosophical point regarding societies- that being ‘change.’ Microdot notes the importance of a coherent vocabulary in market towns yet it is in those very market places where the exchange of ideas between divergent groups occurred. While language stabilized in those centers, ideas broadened.

    Microdot- where I live, the dialect is Auvernhat, but 2 centuries ago, the regional variations were more subtle and a person traveling 100 kilometers from his region, might have had trouble making himself understood.

    To the east in Germany this is still true. My Swabian relatives in the Schwartzwald cannot understand nor can they be understood by the people in the small towns along the Baltic.

    In fact, I have cousins in three very small villages which are less than 10 km distant from each other. They tell me that they can identify the ‘accent’ of each other. Incredible.

    In one village they say, “Guten Morgen”; in another “Morgen”; and in the third, “Morge.” Go figure!

  7. The troubadours represent a clear example of enlightenment [change] in those dark and terribly ignorant days in northern European society. Apparently this fresh example of musical art appealed to the masses [as well as the patrons, of course] but surely its style and lyrics must have been terribly challenging to the clergy and hierarchy of the established church.

    The setting in the post above at the foot of the altar of a church is of course historically inaccurate, yet terribly ironic and fun. These stoic, dark and foreboding churches were the antithesis of all that the troubadours represented with their music and lyrics.

  8. In France, concerts in churches are not necessarily religiously connected.
    I have seen great jazz concerts in 12th century Templar churches (the name of the band I last saw in Ajat was Big Sax)…Why, they are grand spaces with great accoustics and really wonderful spaces to present music.
    Here where I live there is a lively cultural scene revolving around music presented in the churches in the villages…
    A few months ago, I saw a great concert of Baroque music in a little village outside of St. Emilion…after the concert, I met the musicians, we had a nice party and I got to play a lute…very interesting…It was a non fretted instrument with sympathetic drone strings, but I could play it…
    The difference is that the churches are publicly owned. They are maintained and managed by the local governments…
    The catholic church hasn’t had any say in the matter since 1805.

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