History Hunt: Beatriz de Dia

This week, we’re saying goodbye for now to the United States and England and moving back in time to meet our featured composer–way back in time!

Beatriz de Dia (or possibly Beatritz) was born sometime in the 1100s (maybe in the 1140s) in what’s now southeastern France. Her family were nobility, and she herself was a countess. She lived during a period where noblewomen in this region had a surprising amount of freedom, and so she was able to grow up to become a trobairitz, or composer, without anyone trying to stop her.

Because she lived so long ago, we don’t know what her childhood was like. Like her fellow trobairitz who was previously featured on History Hunt, Tibors de Sarenom, most of the information we have about her is unclear, uncertain, and possibly even made up in places.

We do know that she wrote a lot of music in the Occitan language (sometimes referred to as “Provençal”), even if only five of her pieces survive today. It seems she was married to William of Poitiers or possibly Ademar de Peiteus, but the true love of her life was Raimbaut de Vaqueiras, a fellow troubadour (the male version of a trobairitz). Unfortunately, while she was happy with him for a while, he turned out to be unfaithful, and so it’s speculated that one of her surviving works, A chantar m’er de so qu’eu no volria, is the medieval equivalent of a break-up song.

We can also guess at her personality from what she wrote about. One of her pieces is a tenso, a kind of musical debate. She talks about “optimism, praise of herself and her true love, and betrayal.” She didn’t seem to be very fond of gossips, comparing them in one piece to “a cloud that obscures the sun.” (Spiller) She also apparently loved the flute–four of her surviving pieces were apparently accompanied by the flute, though we no longer have the music for them. She sounds like my kind of person!

Her piece A chantar, mentioned above, is actually very special. It’s the only piece by a trobairitz we’ve found so far with lyrics and music intact. You can listen to it below, as well as a less-traditional cover by Iranian-American artist Azam Ali from her first solo album, Portals of Grace.

If you’re enjoying the History Hunt series, why not drop me a tip or subscribe to me at Patreon? History Hunt will always be free–this is just an option for my readers to show their appreciation.

To Learn More (Sources):
A History of Music in Western Culture by Mark Evan Bonds
Beatriz de Dia at Pearson Higher Education
Composer Biography: Comtessa Beatriz de Dia (c1140-c1200) by Melanie Spiller
The Trobairitz at Languedoc-France.info (Note: Mildly mature subject matter discussed in link.)
Troubadour Music at Music Encyclopedia
Beatritz de Dia at Wikipedia.org
Azam Ali at Wikipedia.org
Image source: Beatriz de Dia – “Ab joi et ab joven m´apais”

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