The Occitan society during the time of the Troubadours
A description from the the book 'The world of the Troubadours" by Linda Paterson.
At the time of the troubadours, Occitan society is remarkable for its diversity as much as for its distinctive traits. At all levels it manifests a multiplicity of social groups, in variety of regions and geographical environments. But at the risk of over-simplifying, it is perhaps possible to identify certain salient features. One is a relative openness to exchange with foreigners and those of other cultures and faiths. A second is a relative absence of personal subjection. This applies to relations not only between aristocrats, but also between lords and ordinary knights who seem more likely to be waged than bound by vassalic obligations; even for peasants, burdened by taxes but rarely labour services, subjection may seem less immediate than elsewhere. An expanding mercantile economy touches social relations at all levels, producing opportunities for social mobility, and creating new oligarchies and economic casualties, though relatively few violent upheavals. Emphasis lies on practical rather than theoretical concern, whether in warfare, law or medicine. Woman, as elsewhere face misogyny, exclusion and coercion; but in Occitania they have some power and influence, a voice, albeit problematic, and social freedoms less accepted in other parts of Europe. In this courtly rather than chivalrous society, despite some signs of hostility to parvenus, knights show little sign of forming closed socio-juridical class. Taken together with a tolerance of dissident religious opinion, this suggests that Occitan society, rather than being "fractured' , was not subject to serious tensions that provoke the creation of social scapegoats. The most difficult fault line, the crack between clergy and laity, seems to have resulted from the inept authoritarian intrusion of the Gregorian 'Reform'. Occitonia was not Utopia, nor was it free from Original Sin.I came to know the 'Troubadours Art Ensemble' fairly soon after we arrived in France.
But is was the first spectacular causality of the 'formation of a persecuting society', the victim of a desire on the part of outsiders to dominate and control.
I had heard about the Troubadours when I was young, so now was the opportunity to become more acquainted with it. So I bought several CD's and one was from a local group under the name of Gerard Zuchetto. The other CD's were beautiful, but with Gerard Zuchetto I came to difficulties. I had to stop whatever I was doing and had to concentrate and listen several times to the same song before I could discover the many dimensions of the song. As with other songs, it repeats melodies, but with Gerard Zuchetto they did sound different, because he did not want to sing just a nice song, but to express the meaning of the song. Each word was very clearly sung, sometimes half spoken. The instrumental music was not for accompaniment, but to help to bring over the whole meaning of the song. It was as if the troubadour was standing in my room.
I have now been to several performances and also Sandra-Hurtado-Ros has the ability to give all her energy in bringing over that special element of the Troubadour music, but then in her own individual way.
The first clip is an introduction,the second a concert.
The Troubadours Art Ensemble performs Occitan troubadour lyric of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, a lyric known as the foundation of European vernacular poetry. They visited Stanford in early March 2010 and the video clips are from there.