Essential Hildegard von Bingen
How did a 12th-century nun and Christian mystic become an internationally renowned composer, almost a millennium later? Born over 900 years ago, Abbess Hildegard von Bingen spent most of her life confined to a hilltop monastery in the Rhineland region of present-day Germany. A visionary and a prophet, she left behind a remarkable treasure trove of illuminated manuscripts, treatises on theology, medicine, botany, the arts, hundreds of letters, and of course her extraordinary music.Read more…
Music was extremely important to Hildegard. It was an essential part of worship for her and she regarded it as a bridge between heaven and earth. In her writings, she describes it as a means of recapturing the original joy and beauty of paradise, and her own music, written for her nuns to sing at their religious devotions, reflects this in its purity and lyricism. Many of her compositions are transcriptions of the "heavenly concerts" she heard in her visions and employ Gregorian chant, plainsong, polyphony and some simple instrumental arrangements often using drones and barrel organ which provide a background to the beautiful vocal lines. Like a modern-day minimalist composer such as Philip Glass, Hildegard uses relatively few motifs, repeated in ingenious variation, but with a wide vocal range, which highlight the content of the text.
Superior to any modern day "ambient", her music transcends the centuries and crosses genres: subtle, ethereal, spacious and spiritual, sometimes sensual, always vivid.