Apologia (Implies not admission of guilt or regret but a desire to make clear the grounds for some belief or position.)
The field of academic studies on the troubadours is controversial, replete with competing theories on the origins and meaning of courtly love. The Gypsy Scholar’s research here is basically one of sorting through the various theories. In full disclosure, I can’t claim any originality here in what I present in these musical essays, having basically relied on the research of experts in the field of medieval Occitan studies, whether or not these authorities are academics. (I should point out that though I was trained in the discipline of literature, medieval literature was not my academic study. It was rather Romantic literature, which, appropriately enough, as we shall see in an upcoming musical essay, has a lot to do with the modern academic interest in the troubadours.) Thus, as I was saying, you won’t be hearing my own original theories. However, I’ve been guided by my own intuitions on the subject and, in looking for confirmation, I have gravitated toward theories that are in line with my own amateur perceptions, which, by and large, are based upon a dissatisfaction with the more standard and conventional theories about the troubadours and their concept of love—amor. The criterion for this dissatisfaction wasn’t because of any informed opposition. These just went against my Sixties countercultural sensibilities, which I felt justified in using as a guideline for the various theories on the origin and meaning of the troubadour phenomenon, since it was my deep intuition that the Sixties counterculture and its music was a 20th-century resurgence of the troubadour twelfthth-century counterculture.
Therefore, what you will be hearing are my own appropriations of the theories of those authorities I most rely upon to present the results of my research. This is to say that what you’ll be presented with comes from my own predisposition. Any originality, if that’s the proper term, that I might possibly claim is only in the way I put the various facts and theories together or, on another level, the way I weave these into popular songs of the day in order to demonstrate my own theory of the legacy of troubadour themes and tropes in these love songs. I should also point out that it is just here that I do feel a certain level of originality, since I had never read any popular music critic refer to this legacy, other than in a purely nominal sense of calling certain Sixties folk- and folk-rock musicians “troubadours.” It was much later in my self-oriented research into why they were called such that I discovered one or two rock music critics confirming my convictions about this troubadour legacy.
As with all our religious, quasi-religious, and secular holidays here in America, the Gypsy Scholar’s predilection is to go beyond their habitual superficiality and commercialization and look for a deeper meaning and significance. This is also the case with Valentine’s Day, a holiday that was originally a Catholic holy day; “Saint Valentine’s Day” or the “Feast of Saint Valentine,” celebrated annually on February 14. It originated as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus. In many parts of the world today, Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant religious and cultural celebration of romance and romantic love. However, in America, where, for the most part, the religious nature of the holiday is ignored and a purely secular and highly commercialized Valentine’s Day is the norm, it’s a lot more difficult to find a deeper meaning other than the saccharine hearts-and-flowers ambiance with which we’re so familiar; a day that seems merely a commercial excuse to perpetuate the most sentimentalized aspects of “romantic love.” Indeed, it seems to some a rather inconsequential, even silly, kind of holiday when, in the midst of what everybody knows as a looming national crisis (to quote a line from a Leonard Cohen song), “Everybody talking to their pockets / Everybody wants a box of chocolates / And a long-stemmed rose / And everybody knows.” Nevertheless, the GS, risking being labeled an incurable romantic, will attempt to see if there is anything of real substance to be found in our contemporary hearts-and-flowers Valentine’s Day.
However, a word of caution is in order here. Just in case it be assumed that the GS will follow the custom of DJs on commercial radio stations playing sappy love songs to get couples in the appropriate hearts-and-flowers mood fit for exchanging greeting cards, let the GS assure his audience that this Valentine’s Day program will not—to repeat—will not be one of these! No, the GS (as is his custom for programs dedicated to our holidays) will take the approach of looking behind our secular and commercialized Valentine’s Day and to go back—“way, way back”—to trace its origins in order to tease out a deeper meaning that touches some forgotten but authentic amorous nerve. (The GS is obliged to explain at this point that we basically get our term “romantic love” from nineteenth-century French scholarship on the troubadours and their chivalrous conception of “courtly love.” The term “amour courtois” was first popularized by Gaston Paris and roughly translated as “romantic love,” even though the troubadour conception vastly differed from the modern one; most notably in the fact that “courtly love” was an illicit love outside of the Church’s sacrament of marriage, whereas our modern version of “romantic love” is supposed to lead to marriage—and persist all through the married relationship. The GS should point out here that there are several problems with the use of term “courtly love” (amour courtois) to describe the love of the troubadours. Suffice to say for now that the problems have to do with certain ingrained attitudes toward sex and marriage that determined the nineteenth-century examination of the troubadours, attitudes that cleaned up and tamed the love of the troubadours. Thus, “courtly love,” even in contemporary scholarship, is a somewhat misleading term for what the troubadours called “fin amor,” which denotes a love that was much more revolutionary than it is usually given credit for. The GS will be dealing with this whitewashing of fin’amor in the musical essays to come.)
In this musical essay, then, the GS will attempt the slip this Valentine’s Day program between programs for sappy sentimentalists on one side, who narcissistically indulge in fairy-tale notions of love, and programs for the cynical realists on the other, who pride themselves on seeing so-called “romantic love” as nothing but an illusion, reducing it to the sublimation of the animal instinct of sex, a brain chemical, or simply the function of commercialized romance. Admittedly, it might be near impossible to not buy into the oversentimentality, replete with chubby little cherubs, that is part and parcel of American Valentine’s Day—a regular massacre of true love (fin’amor) of capitalistic proportions! Not to be deterred by any of this, the GS will do his best to avoid such by taking a historical, literary, and folklorist perspective on the history of Valentine’s Day, with the goal of discovering a more meaningful concept of romantic love than the commercialized holiday allows; a lover’s holiday hyped up by the entertainment industry by way of its pop love songs and run-of-the-mill romantic comedies. In other words, the GS will attempt to reveal a message about romantic love—in all its glory and agony—that not only goes beyond the typical Valentine’s Day notion but also situates it in the existential sphere as serious to human concern as life and death (as in the theme of “love and death in the Western world.”)
Therefore, this series of musical essays, “The Troubadours & The Beloved,” by going back to the origins of “romantic love” in the Western world, endeavors to help bring a new awareness of a relatively repressed and forgotten tradition (at least to the general public in the West)—that of eros, amor, and amore. However, given that we are well aware of the connection between Valentine’s Day and “romantic love,” it may seem odd that the GS has referred to this eros-tradition as repressed and forgotten. Surely, on a popular level, we all take the notion of “romantic love” for granted during our hearts-and-flowers Valentine’s Day observances, in our modern courtship rituals, and even in our penchant for the “romantic comedies” that draw us to the cinema for romance by proxy. In any case, this is not what the GS is referring to when he uses the terms eros, amor, and amore as representing a repressed and forgotten tradition.
To put it plainly, then, it is the purpose of this series of musical essays to bring what the GS is calling an “eros-tradition” front and center, in a social milieu in which the phenomenon of “romantic love” is suspect and not taken seriously—if not debunked entirely—by a majority of the intellectual class. Indeed, “romantic love” has always had, from early on, its critics. Two-and-a-half millennia ago, the writers of the Greek world often viewed love with suspicion because it aroused uncontrollable passions that could drive a man to irresponsibility, to obsession, and even to madness. This same suspicion of romantic love continues with throughout history from the Neoplatonists, to the Rabbinic and Christian interpreters of the Song of Songs, to the Church clerics behind the savage Albigensian Crusade, and to the English Puritans who, up until very recently, determined our American morality (most prominently in matters of sex and marriage). Neither has romantic love ever lacked for those who try to tame it for “higher” purposes, such as family and community. For instance, today, in the secular sphere, psychologists regard it, at best, as a convenient illusion that couples go through until they can mature into “real love.” (This love only for higher purpose begins in the twentieth century with Freud, who held that love was an instinct that had to be “sublimated” to the higher purpose of the super-ego and civilization.) But, for many sociologists, there’s nothing “convenient” about this illusion, as they deem “romantic love” as nothing more than a byproduct of bourgeois consumerism. The case for romantic love doesn’t fare much better in the hands of medieval literary historians, who, while admitting a basis for it in the twelfth-century phenomenon of “courtly love,” nevertheless argue that this was only a fictional parlor game for aristocrats and never really practiced in the real world. Turning to the religious sphere, of course the churchmen hold that couples are only indulging in an inferior form of love, “profane love,” which takes a rather sorry third place behind caritas (brotherly love or love of neighbor) and agape (the love of God), the highest form of love. At least since the medieval period, religious authorities have taught that “profane love,” the love of eros, is an obstacle to the love of God, hence the Church’s hard-and-fast opposition of profane vs. sacred love in Western culture. By and large, then, the guardians of Western civilization see no redeeming value in “romantic love;” indeed, to many of these it is responsible for the majority of evils in the world. (Of course, the GS’s argument here doesn’t deny that for too many people “romantic love” does become an “illusion” that leads to terrible consequences. However, that admitted, there’s bitter irony to the naysayers argument about evil consequences—a little thing Freud also warned about: instinctual “repression.” So, if it’s “evil” consequences that are going to be levelled against “romantic love,” as we shall see in an upcoming musical essay, this psychological repression was finally carried out quite literally with the Church’s Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heretics in the Occitan, pretty much bringing an end to the troubadours and their ethos. Therefore, the GS’s question about the evils of “romantic love” and its sexual/erotic component: How much evil has 2000+ years of a doctrine of sacred vs. profane love and its concomitant religious repression contributed to the state of “love in the Western world?)
Admittedly, the critics of romantic love do have a point; the modern phenomenon of romantic love (a love, unlike amor, that is supposed to lead to marriage), as practiced in the courtship ritual of many individuals (in a materialistic and capitalistic society), reduces the concept of romantic love primarily to that of a self-interested romance, wherein individuals regard each other as objects of consumption. This kind of romantic love represents a misapprehension of our proper human relationship to others, to nature, and to the divine—the kind of hyper self-seeking love that gives “romantic love” a bad name! Thus, to put the criticism where it properly belongs, the modern notion of “romantic love” between two individuals represent a relatively attenuated version of what has been identified as the troubadour’s “chivalric erotic philosophy,” or “erotic metaphysics.” Nonetheless, the GS is determined not to (as they say) “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and to go with modern “romantic love,” the reason being (a) that it’s the closest thing we have to the troubadour conception of love (fin’amor) and (b) the nineteenth-century Romantic poets, musicians, and writers (the natural heirs of the ethos of the troubadours) gave a profounder meaning to “romantic love” that we are aware of today. (It was not until 1800 that the concept of romantic love as we know it today started to establish itself across societies. With it came the perception that falling in love – just like getting sick – is an uncontrollable process and that getting married and forming a family doesn’t have to follow economic calculations but can be based on emotional or sexual attraction.) For these Romantics, “romantic love” was a phenomenon whose central characteristic was revolt and whose stress was on self-expression and the individual uniqueness of the lovers. In other words, nineteenth-century Romanticism can be understood as a revival and modification of the ideals of the medieval troubadours and romancers. (There is a direct, literary relationship between the troubadour offshoot of the medieval romance tradition and nineteenth-century Romanticism. The term “romantic” first appeared in eighteenth-century English and originally meant “romance-like;” that is, resembling the fanciful character of medieval romances. Moreover, the Romantics were avid antiquarians and medievalists, who revived scholarly interest in the literature of courtly love, after its demise with the Age of Reason. The Romantic period was thus characterized by a new historical self-consciousness in which medieval history became an important screen for revisioning the present. The radical Romantic writers, instead of identifying with the knight of the medieval romances, as did conservative writers, identified with the troubadour poet because they realized that the twelfth-century courtly love poet was already socially radicalized. The troubadour love lyric makes itself known as the quintessential Romantic poetic appropriation and transformation of the medieval troubadour tradition. It is the troubadour, with his self-promoting songs of desperate love for the wife of his patron, who ignores war and nation to disguise a revolutionary individualist intent of illicit desire behind the spiritual quality of true love, who becomes the figure of the Romantic poet-lover. Therefore, influence of this Romantic medievalism—discernable from poetic appropriations of troubadour love lyric to Gothic novels—cannot be overestimated, for result of it is that Occitan studies today are a product of the initial Romantic preoccupation with the medieval past.)
Thus, “romantic love”—for all its noted limitations—retains, once you get past its superficial aspect, a deep core of psycho-spiritual aspiration and possibility of self-transformation. One could say, then, that there’s a dual nature built into real “romantic love;” both a sexual and a spiritual aspect. The GS prefers to designate this dual aspect under the rubric of eros, which he sees as manifesting in the troubadour notion of fin’amor. Here, eros/amor can be understood as both a sexual eros and a spiritual eros (which doesn’t limit the term “erotic love” to the purely physical realm and, conversely, doesn’t limit the term “spiritual love” to the disembodied realm). Therefore, the basic difference between the common notion today of “romantic love” (the kind that leaves itself open to justifiable criticism) and the alternative kind of “romantic love” the GS would re-vision through the troubadour concept of fin’amor is that spiritual eros is a love that is not an end in itself, but a desire for union and completion that opens the lover’s heart to a greater love, a love that finally encompasses the entire world. Indeed, as the GS will attempt to show, this deeper “romantic love”—what some troubadours of the esoteric love-cult of the Fedeli d’Amore called the “Religion of Love”—had as its aim to reverse the Fall of man and nature and to return to a primordial angelic state in a restoration of paradise. Not too shabby of a goal for disreputable “romantic love”!
Given all this, this musical essay series is presented in order to (a) subvert the dichotomy of sacred vs. profane love and thus (b) to remind today’s lovers that, on the contrary, they are in fact participating, albeit unconsciously, in a counter-tradition of love, or “amor,” that is every bit as sacred in its passion and goal as is agape—as it was not only to pre-Christian lovers, i.e., pagan lovers, but also to heretical Christian lovers who identified with a quasi-religious movement in the South of France (Occitania) in the twelfth century. Therefore, although admittedly tentative and speculative, this musical essay series concerning the troubadours and their invention of what we know today as “romantic love” is, in the final analysis, an attempt to envision an alternative view of Western spirituality, which, in its Christoid dichotomy of sacred vs. profane, heavenly vs. earthly, spiritual vs. sexual “love,” has violently divided asunder the archetypal Lovers and turned the pre-Christian “Garden of Love” (celebrated again by the troubadours) into a Wasteland. This is exactly what William Blake was on about in this poem “Garden of Love,” when he protested that “Priests in black gowns … binding with briars, my joys & desires:”
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And Thou shalt not. writ over the door;
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love,
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be:
And Priests in black gowns, were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars, my joys & desires.
Christoid “Wasteland,” then, is not only mirrored metaphorically in the medieval romances and the Grail-Quest cycle, but also literally in the physical destruction of the natural environment—an environment of which Leonard Cohen laments: “Everybody Knows that the naked man and woman/are just the shinning artifacts of the past.” Therefore, the GS would suggest that “Religion of Love/Amor,” or what he’s calling the “Love-Cult of Eros-Rose,” may be part and parcel of a deep psychological longing of Western man to rejoin heavenly/sacred and profane/earthly love, and thus regain, as envisioned in the Arthurian romances, the Eden of paradise lost.
At a general level, then, this series of musical essays concerns itself with what took place in the “High Middle Ages,” in a period known to some historians as the “Twelfth-century Renaissance,” with its creative epicenter in the South of France (the Occitania) and its particular genius manifested first in the troubadours’ Occitan lyrical poetry and then in the poets of the verse and prose medieval romances, of which the final flower was the Grail-Quest cycle. Specifically, this musical essay series focuses on the manifestation—the rebirth—of eros with the Twelfth-century Renaissance; to wit, what has come to be known as the Courtly Love Tradition, which at its height became a pan-European phenomenon. (The High Middle Ages are dated from 1100–1350 CE. The troubadour school or tradition began in the late eleventh century in Occitania, but it subsequently spread to Italy and Spain, and related movements sprang up throughout Europe, such as the trouvères in northern France and minnesingers in Germany.) Courtly love emerged as an essential theme in the relationships between men and women. It was a brand new, even revolutionary idea, that was opposed to marriage and its sacrament, because marriage, as far as the troubadours were concerned, was only the glorification and sanctification of an economic, utilitarian love.
The Courtly Love Tradition’s influence for European culture—what has been termed “love in the Western world”—was mainly in the sphere of the human heart, since it is not too much to say that the twelfth-century troubadours (because of the inspiration from the Arab poets across the Pyrenees in Andalusia) “invented” what we commonly recognize as “romantic love.” Once more, in the process of making a high art out of falling in love, this Courtly Love Tradition (thanks to educated women) also created a literature out of song that finally gave birth to modern European poetry. (In fact, poet Ezra Pound, credits the troubadours for what we know as “European poetry” itself, fostered by troubadour-influenced poets, such as Dante and Petrarcha. This singular legacy has, for some time now, also been recognized by scholars.)
Be that as it may, the GS believes the recognition of this stunning achievement is incomplete if the deeper roots of the Troubadour/Courtly Love inspiration are overlooked in favor of a strictly aesthetic, literary, or musical contribution to Western culture. This is not what the GS means by the eros-tradition; not the repressed and forgotten tradition of love he has termed as “The Religion of Love/Amor.”
When the GS refers to a “repressed and forgotten tradition,” how many of us have ever heard of the religious heresy and mystery cult that lies behind the Troubadour/Courtly Love phenomenon—one that may point to an esoteric/mystic origin of what we commonly know as “romantic love”? (Hence, the justification for these Sixties’ love lyrics: “I wanna rock your gypsy soul / Just like way back in the days of old / Then magnificently we will float / Into the mystic.”) Once more, how many of us, observing an over-sentimentalized and thoroughly commercialized Valentine’s Day festival seriously believe that erotic love can have higher ceiling than commonly experienced in our sex-and-the-city type romances and affairs—a spiritual dimension that goes to the heart of Western culture? (By the way, this must be the reason why the mythologist Joseph Campbell believed that the Arthurian Grail romances, which were prose romances partly inspired by troubadour poetry/song, represented the potential of spiritual renewal for Western culture; that the realization of amor will be the gateway to spiritual understanding for future generations.)
Therefore, let it be known that this series of musical essays on the Troubadours and the Beloved attempts to flesh out some of the leads the GS has discovered that point to a more profound manifestation of eros—and thus of erotic love—in the troubadour Twelfth-century Renaissance than accounted for by mainstream scholarship. Essentially, if what the GS has gleaned and put together from his research on the origin and meaning of the Troubadour/Courtly Love tradition proves sound, this would mean a more revolutionary conception of eros in the Western world—of “love in the Western world.” Yet, while this is worthwhile in its own right, the GS also hopes to show that more is at stake here in such a re-visioning of eros in the Western world. Given the social implications of what was going on at this time in the South of France (then known as a separate cultural region called the Occitan), one can make a good case for this twelfth-century manifestation of the eros-tradition as the first major challenge to the dominant patriarchal worldview and its mores.
Furthermore, one could extrapolate from this that the “rebirth of eros” had religious, philosophical, and even political implications for an emerging new paradigm in the Western world. In other words, from the research the GS has done, he has come to realize that the emergence of a new paradigm at this time in the South of France is, in the final analysis, essentially about the return of the feminine principle in Western, patriarchal civilization. (This has to do with the controversial theory of the “matriarchal” origins of the troubadour tradition and its Cult of Woman, which origins add up to certain pagan survivals in the Christian medieval period. However, the GS must add here the caveat that troubadour love as not entirely free of patriarchal attitudes. After all, there was, of course, no self-conscious feminism at that time. By the same token, we can’t judge the worth of the tentative photo-feminist ideas by the standards of our time. So, when the GS uses the word “revolutionary” to describe the challenge to the patriarchy represented by the troubadours and trobaritzes, it should be taken to mean revolutionary for that time.) Up to this time, especially in the European “dark ages,” feeling, relatedness, soul-consciousness, and other “feminine” values had been virtually driven out of Western culture by the reigning patriarchal mentality (largely that embodied in the Church). Thus, the GS sees the troubadour Twelfth-century Renaissance as the first instance of a counter-culture to the dominant Christian/patriarchal culture of the medieval period. (It should be noted here that the GS uses this term “counter-culture” not in the popular sense but in technical sense literary historian and social theoretician, Edward Said, uses it.) For the GS, this means that the troubadours created the first Western feminine/soul-based culture in Southern France (the Occitan). Given the challenge the troubadour counter-culture presented to the power-structure and mores of medieval society, one centered in the hegemony of the Church, it is, then, understandable that a vicious crusade (the first against fellow Christians) would be launched to permanently suppress it. (This Albigensian Crusade, beginning in 1209, was a twenty-year campaign initiated by Pope Innocent III and prosecuted primarily by the French crown to eliminate the heresy of Catharism Gnosticism rampant in the province of Languedoc, in southern France. Besides wiping out the heresy, to which a good number of troubadours and southern nobles either belonged to or were sympathetic to, it also resulted in realignment of the County of Toulouse in Languedoc, a rebellious region and a stronghold of troubadour courtly activity, bringing it finally into the sphere of the French crown. The northern French crown had for some time been anxious to control and suppress the “femininized culture of the south.”) Thus, we can understand that for both the church and state of France in the twelfth-century the troubadours, with their radical model of amor, which fostered (as Joseph Campbell so eloquently points out) a “new individualism,” and their heretical allegiances to Catharism, were perceived as disruptive challenges to the status quo. Troubadour innovation is perceived as perversion, the same type of heresy that led to the extermination of the Cathar Gnostics and, finally, the troubadour counter-culture itself. After the Albigensian Crusade, exiled troubadours, fearing more persecution, were forced to make their songs more congenial to Church dogma by transforming the object of their worship, the courtly lady, into versions of the Virgin Mary. Unfortunately, this bow to Church convention by later troubadours becomes the pretext for nineteenth- and twentieth-century medievalists, who present troubadour “courtly love” as an exclusively chaste love, devoid of any contamination by erotic elements. This becomes, from pioneering scholars such as Gaston Paris in France to C.S. Lewis in England, the standardized model of so-called “courtly love.” (One marvels how these expert interpreters of troubadour love lyric either ignore the explicit erotic metaphors or cleverly explain them away to fit their whitewashed model of the love of the troubadours.)
Therefore, by taking a journey back—“way, way back”—to the twelfth-century troubadours, the Gypsy Scholar, takes his cue from the nineteenth-century Romantics, who moved forward in history by looking back for archetypal models for the future and anachronistically replayed and revised history even as they prophetically envisioned a more desirable future. In this way, history—in this case the time of the troubadour Twelfth-century Renaissance—is no longer irrelevant to present times; it provides an imaginative field of potential solutions and a new paradigm to deal with the crisis of the present.
In this aspect of the overall scope of this musical essay series, then, the GS hopes that in the process of tracing out the origins and historical trajectory romantic love (fin’amor, or “refined love,” as the troubadours called it) he will also show that this new invention of the heart, although centered on “romantic love” is not limited to it, but had, at the beginning of the second millennium, profound implications on a much wider scale; i.e., the socio-political (the politics of gender relationships), the philosophical, the psychological, and the spiritual spheres of life that reflected profound changes that were taking place in medieval, Christian culture. Indeed, to some medievalists, this amounted to a veritable revolution of values (a “turning the world upside down”) not only in the amorous relations of men and women but also for the relationships of power in the entire medieval world. The overall effect the Troubadour Courtly Love phenomenon, with its “code of love,” had on the structure of (patriarchal and hierarchical) medieval society was the encouragement of a less violent society (through the code of chivalry), where love/amor was accorded as a gift, regardless of social rank, and where individuals (mostly men) were motivated to abandon their own will, accepting instead the will of a beloved who is (unlike earthly lords) not an autocrat. In such a way, troubadours developed discourses that were in stark opposition to the feudal and hierarchical organization of medieval society, which was founded on inequality. Furthermore, the troubadour’s doctrine of fin’amor contains what can be called a “metaphysics of love,” one which exceeded whatever determinism the immediate social context may have exerted. This analogous metaphysics produced an analogous ethics or code (one that developed into chivalry). The ethical and metaphysical aspects of fin’amor allowed troubadour lyric, the troubadour love song, to set up roles of the lady and the lover, which circumvented the structures of power in medieval lay society.
For the sake of this musical essay series, then, the GS will call this counter-cultural tradition after Eros, the pagan god of love (more accurately, a “daimon”) from which we get our notion of the “erotic,” and which in its original formulation was not limited to the purely sexual. (To avoid confusion, the GS must clarify what he means by using the term eros here. He is not using it in the customary sense defined by Christian theology, which has it as a purely sexual love as opposed to agape; i.e., erotic love vs spiritual love. The term eros, as the GS uses it here, will be (a) in its original sense of a Platonic ontological force, with eros ranging in a continuum from sexual to spiritual love—love that gives wings to the soul to fly upward to the infinite—, and (b) in the sense of the later Neo-Freudian reformulation as the life principle. Therefore, “the rebirth of eros” in the twelfth century doesn’t mean the reemergence of love limited to the body; i.e., carnal love. For eros as an in-between type of love—in between purely carnal and purely spiritual—, the troubadour term amor, or, more accurately, fin’amor is the proper one, whether or not all troubadours physically consummated their love. This in-between love, eros is, according to Plato’s priestess of love, Diotima, not a god but a great spirit, a daimon—an in-between spirit, being half-god and half human—, who intermediates between gods and men.)
Therefore, in this series of musical essays entitled “The Troubadours & The Beloved,” the GS shall basically argue that (a) the troubadour phenomenon was both a rebirth of the life-principle of eros (or union) and the rebirth of the feminine principle in the Western world, after its long repression due to the (Christian) patriarchy, and argue that (b) the troubadour phenomenon heralded, after centuries of historical forgetfulness and the repressive Cold War morality of the 1950s, the eventual rebirth of eros in the 1960s; a powerful resurgence up from below to have its day in the culture and music of the Sixties.
Concerning the music selected for this musical essay series (from folk-rock to classic rock and beyond), the GS should point out that there is another purpose for this musical essay that kicks off on Valentine’s Day (and the musical essays that follow), because the celebration of love is also the celebration of love-in-song. Thus, the GS will use this series of musical essays to answer the question of the Western origins of our popular tradition of love-song (at least its medieval focal-point origins), and in so doing ask his own (rhetorical) question on this mysterious topic: In the history of Western culture, at least since the Middle Ages, how can one separate romantic love from poetry/song?
Therefore, the other purpose of the entire musical essay series, “The Troubadours & The Beloved,” will entail tracing the origins of the Western love song back—“way, way back”—in order to re-vision (along with the notion of romantic love) the popular, secular love song. (And here we may see that romantic love and its natural expression in song were born simultaneously.) In other words, the GS will trace the Sixties and post-Sixties secular love song all the way back to those twelfth-century (itinerant) singer-songwriters known as the “troubadours,” who sang of both the joys and sorrows, of both the highs and lows (from “There’s a love that’s divine, / And it’s yours and it’s mine” [V.M.] to “And love is not a victory march / It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah” [L.C.]) of being “in love” (a love/amor that was at once a passion, a fever or mania, and an ennobling force). And, after traveling back to the time of the troubadours, the GS hopes that this will enable his audience to clearly see the connection of love-song forward in time to that special class of singer-songwriters of the Sixties, in order to reveal a relatively unrecognized continuity (not technically, but stylistically and thematically) of a musical tradition that has escaped the attention of the majority of popular music critics (or, if they only nominally recognize “modern troubadours,” then substantiating such by way of solid thematic connections between the singer-songwriter musicians of the twelfth century and the twentieth).
The underground continuity of these historical connections was recognized by the GS, little by little, as he immersed himself in research into the background of the troubadour phenomenon of the High Middle Ages. What began as an investigation driven only by intuitions of a profound connection to folk and folk-rock music, eventually turned up formal and thematic connections with Sixties music that confirmed the GS’s hunches of a profound cultural legacy and inheritance. He then understood that the label of “troubadour” given to Sixties singer-songwriters (e.g., Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, Phil Oaks, Richard Farina, Donovan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Morrison, Neil Young, and Cat Stevens) was not a just a willy-nilly designation; it was a recognition, however dim, of a special class of poet-musicians that had always emerged to voice the soul of the people—their dreams and visions, their longings and hopes, their anguishes and their joys—, bringing renewal to Western culture. In effect, then, what the GS discovered through his research were enduring parallels between the original troubadour Twelfth-century Renaissance and the cultural rebirth that occurred in the nineteen-sixties.
Given such a profound discovery, the GS, in this series of musical essays, would call attention to an underground artistic/cultural inheritance, a survival of such magnitude that couldn’t help but influence the singer-songwriters of the Sixties Counterculture era. Therefore, the research behind this musical essay series, “The Troubadours & The Beloved,” would suggest that although the troubadour twelfth-century counterculture has long since disappeared, its underlying poetic ethos and thematic musical tropes nevertheless survives and has been given new expression in the songs that became a living soundtrack to the Sixties Counterculture.
In closing, the GS will would suggest that his “The Troubadours & The Beloved” musical essay series answers the age-old question of where secular music comes from. Inquiring of the troubadours, their answer is that it comes from love/amor: “The poets and singers of the troubadour tradition envisioned love as inspiration to song.”