A troubadour was a composer and performer of songs during the High Middle Ages in Europe . The tradition began to flourish during the 11th century . The earliest troubadour whose work survives is Guilhem de Peitieus (Guillaume d'Aquitaine or William IX, Duke of Aquitaine , 1071 - 1127 ). However, Peter Dronke, author of The Medieval Lyric , notes that "[his] songs represent not the beginnings of a tradition but summits of achievement in that tradition." His name has been preserved because he was a Duke, but his work plays with already established structures; Eble le chanteur is often credited as a predecessor, though none of his work survives. The style flourished in the 11th century and was often imitated in the 13th. Many troubadours traveled for great distances, aiding in the transmission of trade and news.
The texts of troubadour songs deal mainly with themes of chivalry and courtly love . Many songs addressed a married lover, perhaps due to the prevalence of arranged marriages at the time. The aubade formed a popular genre .
The etymology of the word troubadour is controversial. In general, the argument breaks into two camps. Some argue that the root of the word can be found either in the langue d'oc verb trobar , 'to compose, invent, or devise', or in the Vulgar Latin tropare , 'to say with tropes'. Others posit an Arabic origin in the word tarrab , 'to sing' (see María Rosa Menocal : The culture of translation ).
Some proponents of this latter theory argue, on cultural grounds, that both etymologies may well be correct, and that there may have been a conscious poetic exploitation of the phonological coincidence between trobar and the triliteral Arabic root TRB (see Idries Shah : The Sufis) when sacred Islamic ( sufi ) musical forms focused on the love theme were first exported from Al-Andalus , i.e. Moorish Spain, to Southern Europe. It has also been pointed out that the concepts of "finding", "music", "love", "ardour", i.e. the precise semantic field attached to the word troubadour, are allied in Arabic under a single root (WJD) that plays a major role in sufic discussions of music, and that the word troubadour may in part reflect this (calque).
The word troubadour is used to designate poet-musicians who spoke the langue d'oc ; their style spread to the trouvères in the north of France, who spoke langues d'oïl .