7th February, 2014 / 11.00am - 4.00pm
1st December, 2015
The earliest notated chansonniers of troubadour and trouvère song date from the third decade of the thirteenth century, postdating the period of the songs’ initial creation by several years, in some cases, by several decades. Despite the absence of earlier notated records, song was a regular presence in the tradition of medieval French romance in the preceding decades. From the early texts of Chrétien de Troyes, representation of musical performance was a fixture in the creation of the social environment of romance, while characters frequently expressed themselves in a manner bordering on the lyrical. By the early thirteenth century, music’s presence was formalised in the practice of lyric interpolation, in romances such as the Roman de la Rose and Roman de la Violette. These traditions persisted well into the fourteenth century, and represent a parallel history of song, flourishing alongside that recorded in the chansonnier tradition. Perhaps on account of the absence of quoted song in the romans sans chansons, and the partial nature of the notation in the extant manuscripts of the romans à chansons, romance remains somewhat peripheral in the historiography of French song. My talk reviews the early notated sources of vernacular song, and then, drawing on examples from Chrétien de Troyes to Guillaume de Machaut, explores how reconnecting the twin traditions of romance and song may offer insights into the meanings, values and performance of these early traditions of French song
Emma Dillon is Professor of Music at King’s College London.