Early 12th century Provence saw the flowering of what could very tenuously be described as the first popular
songs, when troubadours began setting to music poetic verse which expressed the romantic notions of chivalry and courtly love.
These songs were different from what had gone before - the so-called "chansons de geste"
( songs of great deeds ) -
in that they were sung in the language of the people of that region - "occitaine"
or "langue d'oc"
whereas the former, hawked around the feudal courts of Europe by goliards and gleemen, were written largely in Latin,
and bore a closer resemblance to epic poems than to songs.
The troubadours and later north European trouveres could lay claim to the title of Europe's first songwriters,
as their works were performed by jongleurs, minnesingers and minstrels, the very tenuous equivalent to todays pop stars.
The musical forms they created were the named after the poetic forms of the day, the ballade, rondeau and virelai
being the most popular. Another very popular genre was the aubade, a poem or song about lovers parting at dawn.
Along with the motet, these styles underly the structure of vocal music of later centuries.
By the 14th century these early songs had fused with polyphony ( normally three-part ) to produce the French
chanson and it's Italian equivalent, the madrigal, a style which spread across Europe and, in particular, to
England, where the the dance-madrigal or "ballett" was favoured.