Mapping Medieval Identities in Occitanian Crusade Song, by Rachel May Golden. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. xviii, 284 pp.
In Mapping Medieval Identities, Rachel May Golden explores the topic of crusade in the songs of twelfth-century Occitania, illustrating how song became a vehicle for the formation of crusader identity. This identity, she underscores, was forged collaboratively by knights and monks: crusade rhetoric appears first in the Latin monastic versus genre and subsequently in vernacular songs written by troubadour-crusaders. Golden illustrates the ways in which many crusade songs worked to articulate a geography of the crusade journey in which songs, through their lyrics and melodies, mapped a spatialized exploration of the experience of crusade and its dynamics of place and movement.
Golden's contention that crusade songs "acted as means for negotiating imagined and real geographies" (p. 233) relies fundamentally on relationships between lyrics and melody. Her close readings of such relationships explore how some songwriters combined music and words to articulate the geography and temporality of crusade. Golden argues that the sound space of melody, particularly as articulated by a song's position within the gamut and its cadential pitches, serves as a conceptual vehicle for "mapping" spatial relationships central to crusader rhetoric: relationships between "here" and "there," "us" and "them," and the spatial experience of long-distance travel. Once paired with lyrics dwelling on Christian religious hostility toward Muslims, the polarity of songs that fluctuate between two strong cadential pitches could, within the sound space, offer a meditation on conflict and duality. When used to set lyrics that articulate the temporality of the crusader's journey (which involved departure, arrival, and return), musical circularity could be "an embodiment of performance, reception, travel, and memory ... a symbol of Crusaders setting out outremer [overseas], then returning home" (p. 234). Musical emblems of circularity could include a recurring word refrain that causes the same textual-melodic phrase to resound across multiple stanzas whose words continuously change, or a cadential pitch that is introduced then withheld until the stanza's end. Songs that involve circularity represent, within the sound space, the motions of departure, arrival, and return that were at the heart of the imagined geography of crusade. Tonal polarities and circular patterning are by no means unique to songs on crusade subject matter, yet Golden shows how, once harnessed to corresponding rhetoric, these melodic features underscore specific textual ideas. In her words,Such musical markers advance the text's expressivity and manifest the poeticmusical composition as a meaningful whole. This premise is not contingent on Renaissance-style notions of text painting, nor literal, syllable-by-syllable correspondences between melody and text. Rather, musical gestures facilitate textual expression by articulating phrases, outlining particular shapes and varieties of motion, highlighting key ideas, and embracing the song's overall tone or theme. (p. 23)
Several aspects of Mapping...