By Nancy Ellen Washer
PhD Dissertation, Louisiana State University, 2002
Abstract: Although the poems of the troubadours have been extensively studied almost since they were first composed and the troubadours themselves indicate that they tried to create interactions between the melodies and the words, the melodies and the interactions between the poems and melodies in the complete songs have been examined much less intensively. In this dissertation I delve into the songs of the late twelfth-century troubadour Folquet de Marseille whose thirteen songs surviving with their melodies provide a varied collection of a suitable size to permit intensive analysis of poetic and musical compositional practices and the interactions between the two.
A medieval grammatical theory for understanding texts, a theory which encompasses and links the verbal and musical texts, provides the thread of continuity. I first examine the poetic parameters: the versification, division of the words into sense units, and proverbs. Next, I analyze the pitch organization of the melodies and the division of the stanza into musical units based on repetition. Finally, I locate the interactions between the versification and melodic repetition and between the musical and verbal units. In the process of developing methods for examining the words and melodies in these terms I evaluated and reconciled many medieval and some modern theories on verbal and musical organization.
Through this scrutiny of Folquet’s poems and melodies as combined into songs I found his songs to be creatively and carefully organized. The poetic and melodic parameters cannot be understood in isolation, but only through the interactions of the poems and melodies. Poetic and musical units combine flexibly so that monotony is avoided and coherence achieved as the same melody is sung for five or six stanzas of words. The musical settings of the proverbs underscore their separation from the overall first-person lyric discourse; melodic repetition links the proverbs within the song.