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Music History The Minstrel Part 2


If an unlucky noble was picked on and ridiculed by a Troubadour, he could be certain to be famous in every court and castle in Southern Europe, because unfortunately for him he would be a laughing stock. In some cases, he may have to fight to defend himself and his family against marauding neighbours, as had the Lord of Rossilho when Alfonso of Aragon laid waste his territories, as vengeance for the death of the Troubadour Guillem de Cabestanh.

To the Troubadours we owe the existence of various art forms common to music and poetry. Such as the "Pastorela," or "Pastorela" - the shepherd's song, whence the modern Pastoral or Pastorale; the "Alba"- song of the morning, whence the Ambade; the "Serena"- song of the evening, whence the Serenade; the "Ballada"- a song to accompany the dance, from which comes the Ballad.

In Northern France the Trousers, and in Germany the Minnesingers, followed in the footsteps of the Provengal poet-singers, although with modifications of the Provengal aims and methods born of their different surroundings.

More interesting were the Meistersingers of Germany, burgher minstrels, than the courtly Minnesingers and Trouveres. The first Mastersingers belonged to Mayence, and from there the Meistersong spread throughout the length and breadth of Germany. Strasburg, Augsburg, Munich, and Nuremburg, all attained celebrity as centres of the Meistersong. The Meistersinger, with whose name the general public are most familiar, Hans Sachs, was a native of Nuremburg. The Meistersong arose in the fourteenth century, about the time of the decay of the Minnesong, and flourished for nearly four centuries.

It was eminently characteristic of the feudal age that, whereas the Troubadours, Trouveres, and Minnesingers, for the most part people of gentle birth, apparently felt no necessity for any definite union among themselves. The Meistersingers, citizens and traders, living in safety behind the strong walls of their towns, should have fenced round their pursuit of art with the strong wall of guildery.

Going several steps lower in the social scale than the Meistersingers, we find the travelling musicians, as early as the thirteenth century, seeking such protection and increase of dignity as was to be gained by the formation of associations or guilds.

One of the earliest of these was formed in Vienna in 1288, under the title of the Brotherhood of St. Nicholas. Another was the " Confrerie de St. Julien des Menestriers," established at Paris in 1330. The members of these guilds were generally known as town pipers, and although it is probable that their acquirements, taken on an average, were little above those of the travelling musician of the present day, yet their services to the cause of music, albeit rendered unconsciously, can scarcely be overrated.

At a time when most musical knowledge was church based, the most non-religious composition still had a church based style through the mere process of being written down. The only instrumentalist who was regarded as a respectable member of society was the organist, generally a religious man; these strollers were preserving among themselves the seeds, from which were to spring the secular music and instrumental playing of a time when knowledge would be more evenly distributed.

Submitted by:

Mike Shaw

Michael Shaw is an organ and keyboard teacher and sells sheet music and tutor books at his websites http://www.keyboardsheetmusic.co.uk and http://www.mikesmusicroom.co.uk





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