Trouvère (French pronunciation: [t?uv]), sometimes spelled trouveur [t?uvoe?], is the Northern French (langue d'oïl) form of the langue d'oc (Occitan) word trobador. It refers to poet-composers who were roughly contemporary with and influenced by the troubadours (composers and performers of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages) but who composed their works in the northern dialects of France. The first known trouvère was Chrétien de Troyes (fl. 1160s-1180s) (Butterfield, 1997) and the trouvères continued to flourish until about 1300. Some 2130 trouvère poems have survived; of these, at least two-thirds have melodies.
The etymology of the word troubadour and its cognates in other languages is disputed, but may be related to trobar "to compose, to discuss, to invent", cognative with Old French trover "to compose something in verses". (For a discussion of the etymology of the word troubadour and its cognates, see troubadour: etymology.)
The popular image of the troubadour or trouvère is that of the itinerant musician wandering from town to town, lute on his back. Such people existed, but they were called jongleurs and minstrels -- poor musicians, male and female, on the fringes of society. The troubadours and trouvères, on the other hand, represent aristocratic music making. They were either poets and composers who were supported by the aristocracy or, just as often, were aristocrats themselves, for whom the creation and performance of music was part of the courtly tradition. Among their number we can count kings, queens, and countesses. The texts of these songs are a natural reflection of the society that created them. They often revolve around idealized treatments of courtly love ("fine amors", see grand chant) and religious devotion, although many can be found that take a more frank, earthy look at love.
The performance of this style of music is a matter of conjecture. Some scholars suggest that it should be performed in a free rhythmic style and with limited use of accompanying instruments (especially those songs with more elevated text). Other scholars, as well as many performers, believe that instrumental accompaniment and a more rhythmic interpretation is equally valid. At least one modern ensemble has used the name "Trouvères" to perform music loosely set in the period that historical trouvères performed.
Johannes de Grocheio, a Parisian musical theorist of the early 14th century, believed that trouvère songs inspired kings and noblemen to do great things and to be great: "This kind of song is customarily composed by kings and nobles and sung in the presence of kings and princes of the land so that it may move their minds to boldness and fortitude, magnanimity and liberality..." (Page, 1997)
There are no trouvère songs attributed to women in the manuscripts. Since the 1980s, however, the existence of women trouvères is generally accepted and an effort has been made to identify anonymous songs composed by women on the basis of lyrics and contextual clues.