minstrel: troubadours

C&HWood norseman at voicenet.com
Thu Feb 24 17:49:27 PST 2000

At 12:41 AM 2/24/2000 -0500, you wrote:
>I was wondering if there is anyone out there who has ever preformed any
>troubadour music (or would like to in the future).  I have studied it
>from an academic standpoint, but now am interested in learning some to
>sing in an SCA context.  Any insights, ideas, ect appreciated.....
I suspect with your academic experience that in many aspects you will be
way ahead of many of us who have no formal training!  It's likely you could
have insights that would be helpful to others.  Did you study the music
specifically, or the poetry from a literature standpoint?

I'm not sure what sort of insights you're looking for, but let me add my
agreement to Master Efenwealt's statements.  A minute (or less!) of
explanation at the beginning of a piece can really help the audience enjoy
the piece more.  It's also sometimes helpful to perform the piece at least
partially in a lyric translation - the troubadors were performing for an
audience who understood their words (if not always their more esoteric &
poetic meanings) so performing in the original language (foreign to our
audience) doesn't always seem as effective as I could wish.  I'm fairly
fond of performing a verse or two in the original, then repeating it in a
good lyric translation - that way the audience gets a feel for the way the
original language fits the music, and how it really can rock, but also gets
to understand the words.

Many of the troubador & trouvere pieces are longer than a live audience
will happily sit through; usually two, three, or four verses, depending on
the length and complexity of the melody, seem to be good.  It's sometimes
tricky to pick verses that will work in a shortened context, and I wish it
weren't the case, because I've had to forego performing some good songs
because of that.  About five minutes in length seems to be the limit of a
general audience, unless you're a *really* good performer.  If the audience
is one self-selected for interest in performing arts, music, or troubadors
in particular, you may well be able to keep their attention longer than that.

Without a better idea of what you studied, I may be making a fool of myself
saying anything on performance style, so I'll mostly leave that alone.  I'm
certainly not an expert.  If you want to play an instrument in a piece,
either harp or vielle seems to have been popular, though it's apparently
not certain they were played as accompaniment (as opposed to introductory
phrases & interludes).  Certainly singing unaccompanied would be appropriate.

If you studied the troubadors primarily as poets, you may be searching for
information on their music and performance style.  My personal favorite
authors on early music include Timothy McGee, Margaret Switten, and
Christopher Page.  An interesting and useful book is "A Medieval Songbook -
Troubador and Trouvere" edited & transcribed by Fletcher Collins.  Has a
good selection of melodies & words, with performance suggestions.  

I'd love to continue this conversation in further depth and see what
information we can all learn from each other.

Linette de Gallardon
East Kingdom


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