The Turn of the Voice

Judith A. Peraino

in Giving Voice to Love

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199757244
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918904 | DOI:
The Turn of the Voice

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This chapter applies the concept of “the turn” in Louis Althusser’s theory of subject formation through interpellation by language to the musical turning points in medieval love lyrics that are tornadas, envois, and refrains. In most cases tornadas and envois are fragmentary half-stanzas that break the formal and thematic structure of the strophic canso and chanson with an abrupt change of voice and address, from the “timeless” idiomatic language of courtly love to a sudden rooting in the author’s present. Yet this moment of transparent subjectivity recycles rhymes, notes, and sometimes words in a way that resembles refrain procedures. Refrains in the context of dance songs are allegedly group responses, while in the context of chansons, motets, and narratives they often represent a quotation or reported song—a repetition of a different order. The familiar yet fresh musico-poetic turns of tornadas, envois, and refrains bring to the fore the paradox of agency and submission as well as ambiguities of subjectivity and expression inherent in medieval love songs; they formalize and thus authorize the disruption of the conventional voice, signaling the fissures between the self and the subject, as well as subjective and collective voices.

Keywords: tornada; envoi; Guilhem IX; Marcabru; Jaufre Rudel; Bernart de Ventadorn; Thibaut de Champagne; Louis Althusser; Judith Butler; interpellation; chanson; canso; refrains; motets; subjectivity; troubadour; trouvère

Chapter.  18454 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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