At home people organised their own entertainment, where they might sing local and traditional songs which were accompanied by improvised music. The songs varied from village to village, and related local tales and events. In the early medieval period songs were sung in a simple way (monophony), but later in the medieval period songs became more complicated with a double melody (polyphony). Travelling troubadours and minstrels brought songs and news from village to village, with their accompanying jongleurs and their musical instruments such as the recorder, the shawm and the cittern. These songs were often comic entertainment
The songs often told of love and heroism, sometimes in comedy and sometimes in all seriousness.

The Troubadours

An Overview on Troubadours from Medieval Life and Times

The troubadours were mostly aristocratic poets rather than wandering minstrels or jongleurs and flourished in Provence in southern France from the end of the eleventh to the end of the thirteenth centuries. They composed elaborate lyrics of courtly love which had an extensive influence on Western poetry and culture.

Approximately 2,600 poems and some 260 melodies have been preserved. Some important troubadours were:

Marcabru of Gascony, c. 1100 - c.1150
Bernart de Ventadorn, c. 1130 - 1200
Giraut de Bornelh, c. 1138 – 1215
Guiraut Riquier, c. 1230 - 1300
Bertran de Born, c. 1145 - 1215

The Trouvères

The trouvères flourished in northern France slightly later than the troubadours. Of their poems, 2,130 still exist, and 1,420 of them have been preserved with their melodies. Some important trouvères were:
Conon de Béthune, c. 1160 - 1200
Blondel de Nesle, fl. 1180 - 1200
King Thibaut IV of Navarre, 1201 - 1253
Adam de la Halle, c. 1245 - 1288

Minstrels were wandering musicians and entertainers of the Middle Ages, not as refined as the troubadours/trouveres and often of low status (the term "minstrel" means "little servant").


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