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UI musicology professor publishes book on medieval troubadours

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Indiana University Press has recently published 'The Music of the Troubadours," a scholarly book by Elizabeth Aubrey, an associate professor of musicology in the University of Iowa School of Music.

In everyday language, the word "troubadour" has come to mean any wandering minstrel, but in Aubrey's book and in music history the word refers to a specific group of performers. Poet-musicians who were mostly associated with the aristocratic class, the troubadours lived in what is now the south of France in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Centered around a courtly society, the troubadours represent one of the most important medieval musical traditions that has been recorded. Aubrey's book is the first major evaluation of their music since the early years of the 20th century, when they were extensively studied by an earlier generation of scholars.

Aubrey believes that she brings a significant strength to this new study of old music. She explained: "What I have brought to it, I think, is some perspective based on intensive study of the manuscripts that are still in existence in Europe, and I also bring to it a real love of performance. I have sung a lot of these songs over the past decades"

The musician's perspective is important, Aubrey says, because past studies of the troubadours have emphasized the texts. "The texts were very high-class poetry, which is why it's been studied intensely over the last hundred years or so by literary scholars," she said. "They see in the poetry of the troubadours the beginnings of modern poetry.

"The music doesn't survive in as large a quantity as the poetry does, but there's enough of it that we can get a pretty good idea of what kind of music it was: songs for a single voice, perhaps with some very simple accompaniment. It is really a very intimate music that requires close communication between the singer and the audience."

Elizabeth Aubrey has directed the Collegium Musicum -- the UI School of Music's early music ensemble -- since 1982. Head of the Musicology Area in the UI School of Music, she is known internationally as a specialist in medieval secular music and in the performance of early music. Before coming to the UI in 1982, she taught at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she was music director of the early music group "A Newe Jewell."

2/24/97