Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Troubadours, the Rock Stars of the Middle Ages?

Troubadours were poets and musicians who wrote romances about knights and ladies. They wrote their stories in the form of love songs and played them as entertainment in medieval courts. They traveled from town to town. Many were hired by nobles and became part of the noble's household staff. Some were nobles themselves, although they did not 'tour' and entertain like their poorer counterparts. If you've ever heard the song Greensleeves, written in the 16th century by Henry VIII, you've been exposed to a romantic ballad set to in the trubadour tradition.

The practice started in southern France.  Eleanor of Acquitane is credited with being the impetous behind bringing the the trubadour tradition to England. The trubadours were poets and singers who wrote heart stopping lyrics about true love, mostly about the joys and sorrows of unrequited love. They made the ladies sigh, and cry. They made women long for true love. They were the balladeers of the age. Some of them remained in service to one patron, and some of them traveled about the regions of France, mostly in the southern parts, stopping at various castles to play for an evening's entertainment, much like rock stars of the modern age.

For anyone who has lost their heart to the songs of Elvis, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, or Justin Timberlake, you know how the power of song can affect the heart. And, if the singer is not hard on the eyes, we deem him swoon worthy by today's standards.

While an evening of musical entertainment in the Middle Ages may not have had the high energy of a Beatles concert with young women succumbing to hysteria over their arrival, the trubadours were an integral part of courtly life. Their songs contributed to the notion of true love, and to the asthetic of unrequited love.

What was courtly love?  It was an idea that love that was not consummated was the purest form of romantic love. It usually involved a great lady who was married and a knight who adored her from afar. Their love would be kept secret, as she was married, after all. They might exchange a few sweet words, or trinkets. They might write each other little love notes to be cherished forever. The whole point of this ideal love was that it was unobtainable in the real world. It was beautiful, fraught with angst and sorrow, and idealized because it was not possible for the lovers to be together.

Check out this compelling harpist playing an example of Medieval Harp Music. Imagine a man singing a lovely ballad about true love set to this mesmerizing and hypnotic music. Just press back arrow on your browser to return here.

 Medieval troubadour harp music

Singing about unrequited love in the courts raised the ideal of a true love that transcends earthly constraints like time, physical distance, and the impossibility of acting on that love to into a spiritual kind of love, a love that is the most holy, and the most pure. It's a beautiful ideal supported by the concepts of chivalry and the codes of the gentleman and the knight. Such traditions are passed down from generation to generation, giving us the modern crooners who make us tear up, make us sigh and swoon over the ideal of true love being just beyond our reach.  

In my newest romance novel, I give nod to the troubadour tradition. Even though my novel is a contemporary love story, it also has the theme of reincarnation in it. The Hero is a Rock Star. He meets Jessie. He's convinced they were lovers in a past life, and their souls are destined for a reunion. In the story, Lex was sort of a Rock Star in his past life, as he was a traveling troubadour in the middle ages. He fell in love with Jessie back then and they planned to marry, but something evil came along and it--stopped them from getting married. It destroyed their love and separated them for centuries. This time around, Lex is determined to not allow fate to interfere. If you are curious about the love story between Lex and Jessie that transcends time, you can click on the book cover at the upper left hand side of the blog for more information about The Rock Star Next Door. 

If not, just enjoy this lovely song by the famous French Troubadour Guillaume de Machaut, written in the 14th Century:
Troubadour song from YouTube

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