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Medieval Minstrels and Troubadours

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Courts, kings troubadours, medieval renaissance music. There were two types of Medieval Musicians the Minstrels and the Troubadours.

Troubadours - A troubadour was a travelling musician. The Troubadours travelled from one village to the next and many also travelled abroad. The troubadours therefore served a dual purpose and spread the latest news across the realm. The themes of the songs sung by the Troubadours mainly dealt with chivalry and courtly love—romantic ballads. The troubadour would play for common people and nobles.

Minstrels - A minstrel was a servant first employed as a castle or court musician. The name 'minstrel' means a “little servant." Minstrels often created their own ballads but they were also famous for memorising long poems based on myths and legends which were called 'chansons de geste.' The themes of the songs sung by the Troubadors also dealt with chivalry and courtly love but they also told stories of far lands and historical events. The Minstrels were replaced by Troubadours and also started to move around and were known as 'Wandering Minstrels'

There were two types of Medieval Musicians—the Minstrels and the Troubadours. A troubadour was originally a travelling musician. The early Troubadours travelled from one village to the next and many also travelled abroad. Some travelled to the major cities of Europe whilst other troubadours travelled to the Holy Land accompanying the people who went on Crusade. The travelling of the early troubadours allowed them to spread the latest news. The themes of the songs sung by the Troubadours mainly dealt with chivalry and courtly love—romantic ballads. The troubadour would play for royalty nobles. The themes of the songs sung by the Troubadours also dealt with chivalry and courtly love but they also told stories of far lands and historical events.

Troubadours become the elite
The role of the troubadours changed to part of an elite society of royalty and nobles. These elite Troubadours originated as aristocratic poet and musicians of Provence, France. Travel in the Middle Ages, prompted by the Crusades, led to a new and unprecedented interest in beautiful objects, elegant manners, poetry and music. Many troubadours were nobles and knights who had joined the Crusades. The aristocratic troubadours were poets who originated in the south of France where they wrote the lyrics in Provencal (langue d'oc). The troubadours of the north of France wrote in French (langue d'oil)and were called called trouvères. The poetry of the troubadours and the trouvères was invariably linked with music. These elite troubadours even included nobility such as the King of Navarre, the King of Spain and King Richard the Lionheart of England. Richard the Lionheart was the son of Eleanor of Aquitaine who was one of the greatest patrons of Music and the Troubadours of the Middle Ages.

Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Troubadours Eleanor of Aquitaine was the granddaughter of William IX of Aquitaine. Her grandfather was the first influential patron of the aristocratic music of the troubadours. Her father was William X continued to patronize the music and poetry of the troubadours. It was only natural that Eleanor of Aquitaine would continue in this tradition. Eleanor of Aquitaine married King Henry II on 18 May 1152. She encouraged the Troubadours and received them at the English court. The tradition and arts of the Troubadours soon became part of the English culture and her son, Richard the Lionheart became one of these aristocratic troubadours and his story has included the legend of Blondel.

Famous Troubadours
The elite troubadours included many famous and influential men of the Middle Ages.
The most famous troubadours included:

King Richard I of England (the Lionheart)

King Thibaut IV of Navarre

King Alfonso X of Castile and León

Jaufré Rudel de Blaia

Bernart de Ventadorn

Peire Vidal

Raimbaut de Vaqueiras

Folquet de Marseille (archbishop of Toulouse)

Bertrand de Born

Arnaut Daniel

Gaucelm Faidit

Raimon de Miraval

Arnaut de Mareuil

Guiraut Riquier.

The Troubadours and Courtly Love
The ideals of courtly love was publicised in the poems, ballads, writings and literary works of various authors of the Middle Ages and sung by Troubadours. Geoffrey Chaucer, the most famous author of the Middle Ages, wrote stories about courtly love in the Canterbury Tales. The Troubadours of the Middle Ages sang ballads about courtly love and were expected to memorize the words of long poems describing the valour and the code of chivalry followed by the Medieval knights. The Troubadours sang about the Dark Age myths of Arthurian Legends featuring King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. The Troubadours of the Middle Ages therefore strengthened the idea of a Knights Code of Chivalry and Courtly Love.

Medieval Music
Early Medieval music was first performed in unison. The notes were usually the same length and song, or played, in the Key of C. Harmony was gradually introduced and by the 12th century a method of music notation developed which indicated the length of each note and the pitch.

Medieval Musical Instruments
Music was extremely important to the people who lived during the Medieval era. Medieval Music was a major form of entertainment. Music and medieval instruments could be performed by Medieval musicians, the Minstrels or Troubadours, or simple songs and ballads could be sung in the villages and fields to ease the monotonous tasks undertaken by serfs. The oldest Medieval musical instrument was the human voice! The spread of Christianity in the early Medieval period led to the popularity of hymns and secular songs. The earliest Church organ dates back to to the 8th Century! The Musical instruments of the Middle Ages were the forerunners to our modern musical instruments. The descriptions of Medieval Musical instruments provide valuable facts and information about musical entertainment in the Middle Ages.

Medieval Musical Instruments—Categories
There were many Medieval Musical Instruments which fell into the following categories:
Stringed Musical Instruments—instruments which were played with a bow or plucked
Wind Musical Instruments—instruments which were blown like trumpets or bagpipes
Percussion Musical Instruments—various forms of drums and bells

Medieval Musical Instruments—Stringed Category
There were many Stringed Medieval Musical Instruments :

The Harp—The harp was and instrument favored by troubadours, about 30 inches in length

The Fiddle—Fiddles were played with a bow or plucked and usually held under the chin or in the crook of the arm

The Rebec—The rebec was an instrument with a round pear-shaped body ( an early violin )

The Psaltery—The Psaltery was a cross between a harp and a guitar

The Dulcimer—The Dulcimer was played by striking the strings with hammers

The Hurdy-gurdy—the hurdy-gurdy was introduced in the 12th century—the bow was replaced by strings attached to a wheel which was cranked by a handle

The Viol—Viols were played with a bow and held on the lap or between the legs

Medieval Musical Instruments—Wind Category
There were many Wind Medieval Musical Instruments :

The Flute—Musical instrumentsplayed by flute-minstrels

The Trumpet—Long instrument made of metal, often in four parts

The Pipe—The pipe is a simple instrument usually having only three melody holes

The Shawn—The shawn was a reed instrument with vent holes

Recorder—The recorder is a simple instrument with melody holes

The Bagpipe—The Bagpipe was an ancient instrument, used by the poorest people and was made using a goat or sheep skin and a reed pipe

The Crumhorn—The crumhorm (Curved Horn) was introduced in the 15th century as a double reed musical instrument

The Gemshorn—The gemshorn was made of an ox born as a flute-like musical instrument

The Lizard—An s-shaped horn

Medieval Musical Instruments—Percussion Category
There were many Percussion Medieval Musical Instruments :

The Drum—Drums were made initially from a hollow tree trunk, clay or metal and covered by skins of water animals—also called tambours

The Cymbal—Thin round concave metal plates

The Triangle—Instrument Introduced in the 14th century

The Tambourine—Musical instrument traditionally used by a woman
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