A Musical Stereotype? Repetitive Formations of Women’s Voices in the Trouvère Repertory

Uri Jacob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article focuses on the effects of extensive melodic repetition in twelve Old French monophonic songs preserved in chansonniers (song books) from the thirteenth century. All these songs share a specific formal pattern: at least three initial poetic verses (or pairs of verses) set to the same melody. While the methodological point of departure for this study revolves around musical form and melodic construction, five songs within this group of twelve involve women speakers within their poetic texts—a relative rarity in medieval song. In addition to reviewing the cultural, cognitive, emotional, and performative implications of repetition, the article considers how repetitive melodic patterns intersect with and complement the feminine emphases of the text, arguing that this combination is not coincidental. As demonstrated by a close reading of these five songs, repetition has the potential to depict deliberately distinct female figures, ranging from a woman who longs for the touch of her absent crusading lover to the Virgin Mary herself. Repetition thereby serves in these songs to destabilize both the widespread trope of courtly love and the gendered implications of the chanson as a poetic and musical genre.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-484
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Musicology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2023

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  • courtly love
  • gender
  • repetition
  • trouvère songs


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