Thirteenth-century trouvère songs and motets often begin with a conventionalized introduction in which the sensory experience of a springtime landscape inspires the composer to think of his beloved and to sing. Long derided as insincere by critics or simply ignored, the “springtime opening” of the trouvères represents one of the largest bodies of nature imagery in medieval vernacular song. Drawing on a corpus of over one hundred songs and motets, this article offers an ecomusicological reconsideration of the springtime opening, revealing that the way individual medieval composers invoked nature imagery was often correlated with their status and geography. Aristocratic trouvères, who had ready access to open expanses of land on their estates, used the opening often and earnestly. An emerging group of urban trouvères, many of whom were educated clerics, rarely invoked the springtime opening, and when they did, they distanced themselves from it through clever inversions and parody. I argue that these divergent reactions to nature imagery likely reflected lived experiences in the environment, and further, that the songs bear witness to major changes in land management in urban and rural northern France. These songs and motets prompt observations about the relationships between nature, culture, and crisis in medieval and modern society.

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