The new song of the early twelfth century brought a new way of crafting verses and a new music. It flourished in the cloister as in the court, in Latin as in the vernacular. Its salient features were the control of verse length by number of syllables and the linking of verses by end-line rhyme, to which the music corresponded by a tendency towards balanced phrase structures and regular cadence patterns. New systems of sonorous coordinations thus emerged. The most significant vernacular repertory of ‘new songs’ to be preserved was created by the troubadours. How did the troubadours exploit these new sound systems, verbal and musical? This chapter will propose some responses to that question.
At the outset, I admit that the question is, in many ways, unanswerable. The reason is not complicated: no medieval sounds have come down to us. What we have are written records, and the written records for troubadour song, like many medieval records, are difficult of interpretation. I shall first point out some of the difficulties, then describe textual and musical elements of the song; examine approaches to coordinated analysis and performance; and conclude with a few illustrative examples. Examples are grouped at the end of the chapter (pp. 156–62 below).
Only one manuscript from the time of the early troubadours contains songs in Old Occitan: BNF, fonds latin, 1139, from Saint Martial of Limoges, part of which can be dated c. 1100. In the oldest section of this manuscript, among Latin songs called versus, are three religious songs in Occitan, or Occitan and Latin, all with music.