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Saturday, 8 March 2014


Chanson is the French word for "song". The word often refers to the French songs that were sung in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. People who sang these chansons were called "chansonniers.”

The earliest French literature was in verse, for it was meant to be recited, not read. Few people could read. The arrival of a minstrel at a castle, fair, or market place, reciting his verses to musical accompaniment, was an important event.  

The first great chanson was Chanson de Geste  (French, 'song of deeds')  narrative poem recounting legendary heroic exploits.  The poems (of which about 100 survive) date from the 11th to the 14th centuries.

Chanson de Geste were sung by professional minstrels in castles and manors, usually to the accompaniment of a lute. They celebrated the martial exploits of the kings of Carolingian France, and in particular Charlemagne and his paladins, and were sung to short musical phrases, probably involving repetition, by the minstrels.

The most famous, La Chanson de Roland (early 12th century), recounts the death of Roland, one of Charlemagne's knights. Its themes of honor and Christian faith reflect the times.

The earliest chansons were for two, three or four voices, many of them being for three voices. By the 16th century most were for four voices.

The first book of sheet music printed from movable type was Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, a collection of 96 chansons by many composers, published in Venice in 1501.

In France today "chanson" often refers to the work of more popular singers such as Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel and Édith Piaf,

Sources Wikipedia, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.

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