In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Medieval Songs

  • Introduction
  • Troubadour Song
  • Trouvère Song
  • Refrains
  • English Song
  • German Song (Minnesang)
  • Italian Song (Lauda)
  • Iberian Song (Cantigas, Martin Codax, Denis of Portugal)
  • Motets
  • Ars Nova
  • Trecento
  • Ars Subtilior

Medieval Studies Medieval Songs
Vincent Corrigan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 July 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0013


“Medieval song” is a very broad topic. It embraces the disciplines of philology and musicology; texts in Latin, the vernacular languages, and their dialects; various poetic forms and styles; sacred and secular works; questions of performance practice; and many individual sources and composers. Moreover, most of these subjects overlap. There are both monophonic and polyphonic conductus; the Carmina Burana contains songs in both Latin and German; the Roman de Fauvel is an anthology of both monophonic and polyphonic music spanning about 150 years; and the 13th-century motet repertory sets both sacred and secular texts in both Latin and French, to mention only a few complexities. This overlap is especially clear in the area of Latin song, where sacred and secular texts, Goliard poetry, conductus, and the Latin motet completely intersect. This bibliography covers song from the 10th century through 1400. Repertories before 900 do not have clear musical notation; repertories beyond 1400 show the influence of the emerging Renaissance style. An extensive body of this music is monophonic—that is, a single melodic line accompanies the text. Much of the Latin repertory, the songs of the troubadours, trouvères, and minnesingers, and the song repertories of England, Italy, and Iberia are preserved in this way. By the 13th century, and continuing throughout the 14th, the music was increasingly set polyphonically. Motets used secular or sacred texts in Latin or French or both, and the standardized forms of the trouvère and Trecento traditions (rondeau, ballade, virelai; madrigal, ballata, caccia) were given polyphonic elaboration by the foremost composers from the late 13th century on. These become the representative compositions of the three styles of 14th-century music: the Ars nova in France, the Trecento in Italy, and the late-14th-century Ars subtilior, combining aspects of both French and Italian culture. Since this article was initially constructed, the number of online resources has skyrocketed as libraries have digitized their collections. To account for this, each manuscript source provided is accompanied by the site where the facsimile may be found.

General Overviews

General overviews are of two sorts: treatises by medieval authors are concerned with the composition and performance of medieval song, and current publications by contemporary editors cover various aspects of the entire world of medieval song.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.