Poet-musician of Provence and southern France in the 12th–13th centuries. The troubadours originated a type of lyric poetry devoted to themes of courtly love and the idealization of women and to glorifying the chivalric ideals of the period. Little is known of their music, which was passed down orally.
Among the troubadours were Bertran de Born (1140–c. 1215), who was mentioned by Dante, Arnaut Daniel, and Bernard de Ventadour. The trouvères were a similar class of poet-musicians active during the same period in northern France and England. The troubadour tradition had a parallel in the German Minnesingers.
The troubadours' poems were usually poésies courtoises (courtly poems, mainly love-songs, but also satires and other styles), while chansons à personnages (narrative songs) belonged chiefly to the trouvères. Troubadours wrote their own poems and probably composed the tunes as well; approximately 2,500 troubadour songs have survived, and the melodies of about 280 of these are known. About 2,000 of the trouvères' poems have survived, and most of these have music. The melodies were written down in a notation which showed only the pitch of the notes. The rhythm was either committed to memory or else determined by the poetic metre, a question that has never been solved beyond controversy. It is believed that the songs were accompanied on instruments of the harp or lute type, either by the troubadours and trouvères themselves or by attendants, for many troubadours were not poor wandering musicians but nobles whose audiences were at courts and noble houses.