Saturday, November 18, 2006

Walchelin's Music

Walchelin prefers a style of playing and singing that consists of rich dialogue varied by refrains, the melodies to which have the character of folk music, and are spontaneous and tuneful and overlay elaborate and complex compositions that are harmonious. Normally he performs trobar ric, though increasingly he has become influenced by trobar leu and very rarely Walchelin plays the more restrictive trobar clus. When playing, two of his favourite genres are Descort and Tenso; though he finds the combination of challenge and foolishness that is Sestina driving him to attempt performances incorporating this genre. He prefers to play the Mandolin but is also skilled with other stringed instruments, as well as wind - such as the bag-pipes - and percussion – particularly the tabor.


Trobar leu

The trobar leu, or light style of poetry, was the most popular style used by the troubadours. Its accessibility gave it a wide audience.

Trobar ric

The trobar ric, or rich form of poetry, was distinguished by its verbal gymnastics; trobar ric has always played a secondary role to trobar leu.

Trobar clus

Trobar clus, or closed form, was the style of poetry used by troubadours for their more discerning audiences, and it was only truly appreciated by an elite few. It was developed extensively by Marcabru, but by 1200 its inaccessibility led to its disappearance.


The poetry of the troubadour songs covered many topics, from the profound to the humorous and from war at home to the crusades. However, they are best known for expounding on the theme of fin' amors, or courtly love.

· Alba: The Alba is a song of the morning, used by the troubadours. It concerns the departure of a lover in the early morning. This style of song was later developed by the German minnesingers who called it a tagelied.

· Coblas: probably composed of several strophe, each a pair of stanza of alternating form on which the structure of the poem or song is based. Though a Coblas is also described as a band. Maybe everyone in the band plays different strophe.

· Descort: The Descort is a song of disagreement used by the troubadours. The subject matter is one of disagreement and this is emphasised by unusual metric structures and irregular rhymes.

· Devinaill: No clue on what this Genre is about.

· Estampida: The Estampida is the Occitan equivalent of the French estampie. According to Grocheo in his book De Musica the estampie is a melody without words with a complicated melodic progression. This does not seem to have been a universally accepted definition however, as the song Kalenda maia by Raimbaut de Vaquerais describes itself as an estampida.

· Pastorela: The Pastorela is a poetic genre used by the troubadours, which was the genesis of the pastourelle. It concerns the meeting of a knight with a shepherdess, which may lead to any of a number of possible conclusions. They are usually humorous pieces.

· Planh: The Planh is a funeral lament used by the troubadours, modeled on the Medieval Latin planctus. It differed from the planctus in that it was intended for a secular audience.

· Retroencha: based on some references probably classical song of praise, though I am not sure.

· Sestina: Of all the poetic forms created in the Middle Ages, the sestina is perhaps the silliest. It was almost certainly invented by the troubadour Arnot Daniel who had the good sense to only write one. The sestina is created using six key words, and has six stanzas of six lines each with a concluding three line stanza at the end. The six key words appear at the end of one line each in the first stanza, and we shall call the order they occur in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. In the second stanza each line again is concluded with a key word, this time in order 6, 1, 5, 2, 4, 3. In the third stanza the words are shuffled the same way, so that the order is 3, 6, 4, 1, 2, 5. This continues until six stanzas have been completed. The six words are then used in the concluding three line stanza, with two key words per line.

· Sirventes: The Sirventes is a form of poetry utilised by the troubadours. It was a song written in the style of a canso, addressing current events from the perspective of a sirven, a paid soldier. It was always partisan, being either highly complimentary or oozing with vitriol. The most famous exponent of the sirventes was Bertran de Born.

· Tenso: A Tenso is a song style favoured by the troubadours. It takes the form of a debate in which each voice defends a position on a topic relating to love or ethics.

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