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The Role of Rhythm in Troubadour Poetry: A Close Reading of Peire Cardenal

I focused on the role of rhythm in troubadour poetry, in particular zooming into the works of Peire Cardenal. Aside from a few exceptions in the late 13th and early 14th century, all troubadour melodies are notated with neumes, which give no indication of rhythm. I therefore wanted to examine the impact of the performers' interpretation of the poems on the meaning of the poems, as well as the structure of the poems as the poet meant them to be. Rhythm is especially important because audiences heard, rather than read the poems. The rhythmic nature of most of Peire Cardenal's poems can often be likened to chanting or the military, which are 2 main themes that run through his works: the clergy and war. This sound is one that audiences are familiar with, and we know that troubadours tended to draw inspiration from their everyday lives (eg. horses hooves). Repetition of words, syllables, consonants and refrains contributed to the rhythm of the poem, providing audio cues by which audiences could discern the structure of the poem. In #57, the clear structure and rhyme scheme of the poem mirrored Peire Cardenal's struggle to retain his sanity and rationality in the 'mad world' and he, through this poem, positions himself as the true voice of morality and reason in the world that he deems insane after the Albegensian Crusade. in #52, there is a clear use of rhythm variation to reinforce his emotions. The song starts of melodic, with a gentle, unhurried rhythm, but this gives way to a faster, more brusque rhythm as Peire Cardenal expresses his anger and indignation. The use of harsh consonant clusters further complements this effect. Both medieval and modern audiences alike, by simply listening to the sound of the poem, are able to understand his frustration.Therefore, we have demonstrated how rhythm can serve to enhance the message that troubadours tried to put forth to audiences. 

The Other France: Troubadours and the Politics of Cultural Heritage
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