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Thread: Hildegard of Bingen

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    Senior Member Yardrax's Avatar
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    Default Hildegard of Bingen

    I see her name dropped on these forums quite a bit. It's not a name I've seen prominently elsewhere so I'm wondering exactly why. I listened to a couple of things on Youtube, and well, it's monophonic chant. I mean it's nice I suppose, but I'm not really interested in listening to one unaccompanied line for any particular length of time. So, why is it that I keep seeing her name on these boards? Just exactly how much of an ignoramus am I for my failure to appreciate anything prior to the development of polyphony? Let the good people of TC decide.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Certainly not an ignoramus. It's a matter of taste. In some ways, it depends what you've been used to. I grew up with (Gregorian) chant so I find it perfectly natural. I attend a church that uses missal tone chants, so again, I'm used to monophonic chant. I like folk song - including single voice stuff, so I'm used to monophony.

    The importance of Hildegard is mainly because she is a woman and because she had the largest body of work of any medieval composer.
    Last edited by Taggart; Oct-19-2013 at 07:45.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Historically, Hildegard is famous for at least two reasons:

    1 - She wrote the first "classical" music that can be identified with a particular person (or so it is said).

    2 - She would be famous even without that. She was a composer, reformer, theologian, administrator, medicinal expert, political advisor, seer of visions, and ultimately a saint.

    As for the music, well, such things are of course matters of taste.

    Ordo Virtutum ( c. 1151) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm6qeyB1scI
    Symphoniae armonie celestium revelationum (c. 1156) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quMgY08jDf4
    Last edited by KenOC; Oct-18-2013 at 20:36.


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    Senior Member Winterreisender's Avatar
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    I would say that, given the simplicity of the textures in Hildegard's music (monophponic, as you rightly point out), there is much scope for interpretation. As a result, some recordings take a few liberties with the accompaniment to make the music that little bit deeper and more atmospheric (and perhaps authentic?), even with something as simple as a drone on the medieval fiddle or harp. I personally like that approach and would particularly recommend the recordings of Sequentia. They have done the complete works of Hildegard but "Canticles of Ecstasy" is my favourite.

    Hildgard1.jpg

    Or perhaps the classic Hildegard recording is this one, "Feather on the Breath of God," by the Gothic Voices, where Emma Kirkby's crystal clear performance needs little accompaniment.

    hildegard2.jpg

    Here is a piece from that album:



    Of course none of this would work if the melodies themselves weren't very beautiful, and I am of the opinion that they most certainly are.
    Last edited by Winterreisender; Oct-18-2013 at 20:37.

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    Senior Member Turangalîla's Avatar
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    The span of Hildegard's work, in music, medicine, and religion, is phenomenal and worthy of the highest respect, and she is considered to be the first composer of what many of us call "art music".

    But she is not famous just for that—many of her melodies are among the most beautiful things I've ever heard.


    "In my entire career, I sang the way I wanted to six times. The rest of the time I just did the best I could."
    – Beverly Sills

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    Senior Member Kieran's Avatar
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    That's fairly stunning...
    The Brain - is wider than the Sky

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taggart View Post
    The importance of Hildegard is mainly because she is a woman and because she had the largest body of any medieval composer.
    She had the largest body?

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    Senior Member Garlic's Avatar
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    I had a similar reaction to the OP when I first heard her music. I don't know what changed but at some point something clicked. As Winterreisender says, interpretations can vary considerably so try different recordings. It may just not be to your taste, but I think it's very special music well worth making the effort for.

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    Senior Member quack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manxfeeder View Post
    She had the largest body?
    ...while her contributions to music, medicine and theology can be in no way underestimated, scholars now believe that her true importance lies in her development of the "yo momma" joke. Pope Benedict acknowledged that significance in an encyclical commemorating her recognition as a Doctor of the church entitled "Yo momma superior is so fat she caused the great schism".
    The soft complaining flute in dying notes discovers the woes of hopeless lovers.

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    Senior Member brianvds's Avatar
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    To me, there is something quite magical and hypnotic about a melody with drone accompaniment, especially melodies as exotically beautiful as those of Hildegard. But I suppose it's a matter of taste. And by no means do I wish that the evolution of western music had stopped there. As far as I am concerned, I am very happy to live in a world where we can have both Hildegard and Prokofiev.

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    Thanks so much, CarterJohnsonPiano, for the YouTube clip you posted in #5. It is indeed absolutely 'magical & hypnotic', as brianvds says. I have embedded it on my FB page and listened to it 3 times today already. I am so grateful to Hildegarde - so often, one feels that female composers are included as tokens, but her talent* is beyond dispute.

    (* Edit: and on reflection, 'genius' might not be too strong a word...)
    Last edited by Ingélou; Oct-19-2013 at 14:37.
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Senior Member deprofundis's Avatar
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    I like to post about a mather,do you preffer purist version of hildegard von Bingen, like the ones of naxos or you preffered the modern version of Hildegard von Bingen.I like '' visions'' on the angel label(a modern version) but i would like to says i pretty mutch like ''heavenly revelation'' on naxos, but the other one '' celestial harmonies'' was a bit borring even if it were the same folks that record ''heavenly revelation'' , jeremy summerly and the oxford camerata.

    What your cue on this, should medieval music stay in a purist format or your open to modernism like the ''vision'' cd?

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Hildegard is the patron saint of independents and especially Hyperion. Hyperion's breakthrough was through the 12th century abbess whose name was barely heard at the time outside the Vatican library. Hyperion founder, Ted Perry, was driving his taxi cab one night Something he did to put bread on the table) when he heard an appealing sound on BBC Radio 3 and decided to record it.
    He called Christopher Page, director of the Oxford-based Gothic Voices, and Emma Kirkby, the soprano, and arranged to meet them at the church of St Jude-onthe-Hill, Hampstead, on 14 September, 1981.
    The resultant production, titled A Feather on the Breath of God, went on to sell in excess of half a million copies, and continues selling. One bookstore in Texas accounts for 1,000 discs every year. Hildegard was hauled out of the theologians' closet to become an icon for feminists, intellectuals and male fanciers of really formidable women. Our perception of medieval values was markedly altered by her re-emergence. She also wrote captivating noises.
    On Hildegard's profits, Perry pursued dozens of lost composers, none of whom attained comparable penetration. He recorded symphonies by the abstruse Robert Simpson; a series of unplayed Victorian concertos; music by Cecil Coles, killed in the First World War. (From article by Norman Lebrecht)

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Ted Perry made so much money out of Hildegard that he used to say that Hildegard "paid for all my mistakes".

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    Senior Member Gaspard de la Nuit's Avatar
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    Wow, I'm listening to some of her works now. I feel so calm, it seems so refreshing. I'm used to listening to complex, over-stimulating music and it just seemed like a breath of fresh air.
    "Only in being hidden does the Divine reveal itself."

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