Thursday, January 7, 8140

Guiraut de Bornelh (1140-1220) - Troubadours

Troubadour - Albado - morning love song

Reis Glorios (Glorious King, Be Faithful to Him, My Companion), page 1

page 2

Denis Stevens - History of European Music

Florilegium Musicum - Music at the Time of the Crusades

Giraut de Bornelh (c. 1138 – 1215), also known as Guiraut de Borneil[l], was a troubadour, born to a lower class family in the Limousin, probably in Bourney, near Excideuil. Connected with the castle of the Viscount of Limoges, his skill earned him the nickname of "Master of the Troubadours."

He is credited with the formalization, if not the invention, of the "light" style, or trobar leu.

About ninety of his poems and four of his melodies survive. One of his best pieces is a planh (lament) on the death of Raimbaut of Orange. In a tenso with king Alfons II of Aragon Giraut contributes to the poetical debate as to whether a lady is dishonored by taking a lover who is richer than herself. This debate was begun by Guilhem de Saint-Leidier, taken up by Azalais de Porcairagues and Raimbaut of Orange, and continued in a partimen between Dalfi d'Alvernha and Perdigon.

There is the possibility that he accompanied Richard I of England and Aimar V of Limoges on the Third Crusade and stayed a while with the "good prince of Antioch", Bohemond III. He certainly made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but perhaps before the Crusade.


A troubadour was a composer and performer of Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100–1350). The troubadour school or tradition began in the eleventh century in Occitania, but it subsequently spread into Italy, Spain, and even Greece. Under the influence of the troubadours, related movements sprang up throughout Europe: the Minnesang in Germany, trovadorismo in Galicia and Portugal, and that of the trouvères in northern France. Dante Alighieri in his De vulgari eloquentia defined the troubadour lyric as fictio rethorica musicaque poita: rhetorical, musical, and poetical fiction. After a "classical" period around the turn of the thirteenth century and a mid-century resurgence, the art of the troubadours declined in the fourteenth century and eventually died out around the time of the Black Death (1348).


Occitania refers to the lands where Occitan is the traditional language in use, though more recently viewed as a minority language. Most of Occitania is in Southern France, other parts are in Italy (Occitan Valleys in Piedmont and Liguria), Spain (Aran Valley in Catalonia) and include Monaco; so the main languages in Occitania are nowadays French, Italian, Catalan and Spanish. In Aran Valley, Occitan is a local official language besides Spanish and Catalan.

Under Roman rule (355), most of Occitania was known as Aquitania while the northern provinces of what is now France were called Gallia (Gaul). The names Occitania and Occitan language themselves appeared in Latin texts from 1290 and during the following years of the early 14th century (Patria Linguae Occitanae, Occitana lingua). They derive from the name Lenga d'òc that was used in Italian (Lingua d'òc) by Dante in the late 13th century. Occitan and Lenga d'òc both refer to the centuries-old set of Romance dialects that use òc for "yes."


The texts of troubadour songs deal mainly with themes of chivalry and courtly love. Most were metaphysical, intellectual, and formulaic. Many were humorous or vulgar satires. Works can be grouped into three styles: the trobar leu (light), trobar ric (rich), and trobar clus (closed). Likewise there were many genres, the most popular being the canso, but sirventes and tensos were especially popular in the post-classical period, in Italy, and among the female troubadours, the trobairitz.

The English word "troubadour" comes by way of Old French from the Occitan word trobador, the oblique case of the nominative trobaire, a substantive of the verb trobar, which is derived from the hypothetical Late Latin *tropāre, in turn from tropus, meaning a trope, from Greek τρόπος (tropos), meaning "turn, manner."

Another possible Latin root is turbare, to upset or (over)turn. Trobar is cognative with the modern French word trouver, meaning "to find". Whereas French trouver became trouvère, the nominative form, instead of the oblique trouveor or trouveur, the French language adopted the Occitan oblique case and from there it entered English.

The general sense of "trobar" in Occitan is "invent" or "compose" and this is how it is commonly translated. A troubadour thus composed his own work, whereas a joglar performed only that of others. This etymology is supported by the French dictionaries Académie Française, Larousse, and Petit Robert.

Not surprisingly, the Greek → Latin → Occitan → French → English hypothesis has been widely supported by those who find the origins of troubadour poetry in classical Latin forms or in medieval Latin liturgies, such as Peter Dronke and Reto Bezzola.

There is a second, less traditional and less popular, theory as to the etymology of the word trobar. It has the support of some, such as María Rosa Menocal, in the camp which seeks the troubadours' origins in Arabic Andalusian musical practices. According to them, the Arabic word tarrab, "to sing", is the root of trobar.

Some proponents of this theory argue, on cultural grounds, that both etymologies may well be correct, and that there may have been a conscious poetic exploitation of the phonological coincidence between trobar and the triliteral Arabic root TRB when sacred Sufi Islamic musical forms with a love theme were first exported from Al-Andalus to southern France. It has also been pointed out that the concepts of "finding", "music", "love", and "ardour"—the precise semantic field attached to the word troubadour—are allied in Arabic under a single root (WJD) that plays a major role in Sufic discussions of music, and that the word troubadour may in part reflect this.

The earliest troubadour whose work survives is Guilhem de Peitieus (1071–1127). Peter Dronke, author of The Medieval Lyric, however, believes that "[his] songs represent not the beginnings of a tradition but summits of achievement in that tradition."

His name has been preserved because he was the Duke of Aquitaine, but his work plays with already established structures; Eble II of Ventadorn is often credited as a predecessor, though none of his work survives. Orderic Vitalis referred to Guilhem composing songs about his experiences on his return from the Crusade of 1101 (c. 1102). This may be the earliest reference to troubadour lyrics.

Orderic also provides us what may be the first description of a troubadour performance: an eyewitness account of William of Aquitaine in 1135.

Then the Poitevin duke ... the miseries of his captivity ... before kings, magnates, and Christian assemblies many times related with rhythmic verses and witty measures.

The first half of the twelfth century saw relatively few recorded troubadours. Only in the last decades of the century did troubadour activity explode. Almost half of all troubadour works survive from the period 1180–1220.

The troubadour tradition seems to have begun in western Aquitaine (Poitou and Saintonge) and Gascony, from there spreading over into eastern Aquitaine (Limousin and Auvergne) and Provence. At its height it had become popular in Languedoc and the regions of Rouergue, Toulouse, and Quercy (c. 1200). Finally, in the early thirteenth century it began to spread into first Italy and then Catalonia, whence to the rest of Spain. This development has been called the rayonnement des troubadours.

The classical period of troubadour activity lasted from about 1170 until about 1220. The most famous names among the ranks of troubadours belong to this period. During this period the lyric art of the troubadours reached the height of its popularity and the number of surviving poems is greatest from this period. During this period the canso, or love song, became distinguishable as a genre. The master of the canso and the troubadour who epitomises the classical period is Bernart de Ventadorn. He was highly regarded by his contemporaries, as were Giraut de Bornelh, reputed by his biographer to be the greatest composer of melodies to ever live, and Bertran de Born, the master of the sirventes, or political song, which became increasingly popular in this period.

The classical period came to be seen by later generations, especially in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and outside of Occitania, as representing the high point of lyric poetry and models to be emulated. The language of the classic poets, its grammar and vocabularly, their style and themes, were the ideal to which poets of the troubadour revival in Toulouse and their Catalan and Castilian contemporaries aspired. During the classical period the "rules" of poetic composition had first become standardised and written down, first by Raimon Vidal and then by Uc Faidit.

The Occitan words trobador and trobaire are relatively rare compared with the verb trobar (compose, invent), which was usually applied to the writing of poetry. It signified that a poem was original to an author (trobador) and was not merely sung or played by one. The term was used mostly for poetry only and in more careful works, like the vidas, is not generally applied to the composition of music or to singing, though the troubadour's poetry itself is not so careful. Sometime in the middle of the twelfth century, however, a distinction was definitely being made between an inventor of original verse and the performers of others'. These last were called joglars, from the Latin ioculatores, giving rise also to the French jongleur, Castilian juglar, and English juggler, which has come to refer to a more specific breed of performer. The medieval jongleur/joglar is really a minstrel.

At the height of troubadour poetry (the "classical period"), troubadours are often found attacking jongleurs and at least two small genres arose around the theme: the ensenhamen joglaresc and the sirventes joglaresc. These terms are debated, however, since the adjective joglaresc would seem to imply "in the manner of the jongleurs". Inevitably, however, pieces of said genres are verbal attacks at jongleurs, in general and in specific, with named individuals being called out. It is clear, for example from the poetry of Bertran de Born, that jongleurs were performers who did not usually compose and that they often performed the troubadour's songs: singing, playing instruments, dancing, and even doing acrobatics.

In the late thirteenth century Guiraut Riquier bemoaned the inexactness of his contemporaries and wrote a letter to Alfonso X of Castile, a noted patron of literature and learning of all kinds, for clarification on the proper reference of the terms trobador and joglar. According to Riquier, every vocation deserved a name of its own and the sloppy usage of joglar assured that it covered a multitude of activities, some which, no doubt, Riquier did not wish to be associated. In the end Riquier argued—and Alfonso X seems to agree, though his "response" was probably penned by Riquier—that a joglar was a courtly entertainer (as opposed to popular or low-class one) and a troubadour was a poet and composer.

Troubadours, at least after their style became established, usually followed some set of "rules", like those of the Leys d'amors (compiled between 1328 and 1337). Initially all troubadour verses were called simply vers, yet this soon came to be reserved for only love songs and was later replaced by canso, though the term lived on as an antique expression for the troubadours' early works and was even employed with a more technically meaning by the last generation of troubadours (mid-fourteenth century), when it was thought to derive from the Latin word verus (truth) and was thus used to describe moralising or didactic pieces. The early troubadours developed many genres and these only proliferated as rules of composition came to be put in writing. The known genres are:

Alba (morning song)— the song of a lover as dawn approaches, often with a watchman warning of the approch of a lady's jealous husband

Canso, originally vers, also chanso or canço— the love song, usually consisting of five or six stanzas with an envoi

Cobla esparsa— a stand-alone stanza

Comiat— a song renouncing a lover

Crusade song (canso de crozada)— a song about the Crusades, usually encouraging them

Dansa or balada— a lively dance song with a refrain

Descort— a song heavily discordant in verse form and/or feeling

Desdansa— a dance designed for sad occasions

Ensenhamen— a long didactic poem, usually not divided into stanzas, teaching a moral or practical lesson

Enuig— a poem expressing indignation or feelings of insult

Escondig— a lover's apology

Estampida— a late thirteenth-century dance song

Gap— a boasting song, often presented as a challenge, often similar to modern sports chants

Maldit— a song complaining about a lady's behaviour and character

Partimen— a poetical exchange between two or more poets in which one is presented with a dilemma by another and responds

Pastorela— the tale of the love request of a knight to a shepherdess

Planh— a lament, especially on the death of some important figure

Plazer— a poem expressing pleasure

Salut d'amor— a love letter addressed to another, not always one's lover

Sestina— highly-structure verse form

Sirventes— a political poem or satire, originally put in the mouth of a paid soldier (sirvens)

Sonnet— an Italian genre imported into Occitan verse in the thirteenth century

Tenso, also tenson, later tenço— a poetical debate which was usually an exchange between two poets, but could be fictional

Torneyamen— a poetical debate between three or more persons, often with a judge (like a tournament)

Viadeyra— a traveller's complaint

All these genres were highly fluid.

Most "Crusading songs" are classified either as cansos or sirventes but sometimes separately.

Some styles became popular in other languages and in other literary or musical traditions. In French, the alba became the aubade, the pastorela the pastourelle, and the partimen the jeu parti. The sestina became popular in Italian literature. The troubadours were not averse to borrowing either. The planh developed out of the Latin planctus and the sonnet was stolen from the Sicilian School. Interestingly, the basse danse (bassa dansa) was first mentioned in the troubadour tradition (c. 1324), but only as being performed by jongleurs.

A complementary role to that of the troubadour was filled at the same period by performers known as joglares in Occitan, jongleurs in French (minstrels in English). Jongleurs are often addressed in troubadour lyrics. Their profession was that of popular entertainer; as such jongleurs sometimes performed troubadour compositions but more often other genres, notably chansons de geste (epic narratives).

Troubadour songs were usually monophonic. Fewer than 300 melodies out of an estimated 2500 survive. Most were composed by the troubadours themselves. Other troubadours set their poems to pre-existing pieces music. Raimbaut de Vaqueyras wrote his Kalenda maya (The Calends of May) to music composed by jongleurs at Montferrat. Troubadours sing tales of bravery and stories about life and death. The most common kinds of songs they sang were: morning songs; political poems; dirges; and disputes. Their favorite kinds of songs were about courtly love, war, and nature.

Some 2,600 poems or fragments of poems have survived from around 450 identifiable troubadours. They are largely preserved in songbooks called chansonniers made for wealthy patrons.

[8142 Seneca / 8140 Guiraut de Bornelh / 8133 Leonin]