Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Anne Stone

Committee Members

Jonathan Shannon

Allan Atlas

Patrick E. Savage

Manuel Pedro Ferreira

Subject Categories

Digital Humanities | Medieval Studies | Musicology


Troubadours; al-Andalus; Andalusi Music; Saint Martial; Digital Musicology; Algorithmic Analysis; Pairwise Sequence Alignment


How the musical and poetic traditions of the troubadours arose remains unknown, despite a century of scholarship that has attempted to account for their seemingly ex nihilo appearance in late twelfth-century Europe. Scholarly debate was particularly intense during the first half of the twentieth century and revolved around two competing theories: the Andalusi theory, which linked the troubadours to the poetic-musical traditions of medieval Muslim Iberia (also known by its Arabic name al-Andalus), and the Aquitanian theory, which argued that the troubadours were rooted in the folk and sacred traditions of the Aquitanian region. Since the 1980s, interest in the topic has mostly focused on new evidence that supports the Andalusi theory. However, because of the paucity of musical sources from al-Andalus and the first generation of troubadours, all scholarship on the topic has based itself upon isolated case studies of the lyric texts, extending conclusions drawn from textual analysis into the musical realm.

This dissertation, by contrast, focuses upon the emergence of troubadour melody, using algorithmic analysis to perform a large comparative study of three repertoires: (1) the complete corpus of extant and complete troubadour melodies, (2) a sample of 158 melodies from contemporary unwritten Andalusi music of Morocco, and (3) 380 melodies from the sacred repertoires of Saint Martial of Limoges. I have used two of the most popular algorithms in bioinformatics – the Pairwise Sequence Alignment algorithm (PSA) and the Multiple Sequence Alignment (MSA) – to compare the melodies, and study common musical idioms. I found three melodic pairs between troubadour and contemporary Moroccan Andalusi melodies, thus demonstrating the existence of musical exchange between Occitania and al-Andalus. In addition, based on common musical idioms (such as common ways of beginning a melody and shared motives) found among all three traditions, I posit that the boundaries between the sacred and the secular were fluid, as both musical spheres drew on a pool of well-known unwritten melodies. Thus, I argue that the generic boundaries through which sacred and secular repertoires are theorized today are anachronistic. Finally, I reconstruct two proto-melodies of the troubadour tradition based on the common idioms found.