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"A Feather on the Breath of God"- what the melody language of Hildegard von Bingen's music makes her the great composer in the 12th century.

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"A Feather on the Breath of God" - what the melody language of Hildegard von Bingen's music makes her the great composer in the 12th century. Hildegard of Bingen was born in 1098, convent-educated from the age of 7 by Benedictine nuns at Disibodenberg, near Bingen. She became abbess of her community at age 43. Historians know Hildegard mainly from her book of visions; medical historians and botanists for her two books on natural history and medicine. Literary and music scholars began from her morality play, the Ordo Virtutum. This is her first miracle play, which is set to music and was performed by women, a rarity for the time. Hildegard only turned her talented gift to music in the 1150s. Musicians know Hildegard for her antiphons, hymns, and sequences, a large body of monophonic chants whose text and music are both by Hildegard. She is the first female composer who is known and whose works have survived. Her chants are rich in mystical images, and her melodies are elaborate, with florid melodic contours, ornamented inflections, and wide ranges. Hildegard's music did not get much attention by musicologists because of its difference in musical style from others at that of the Middle Ages. ...read more.


The fragments vary with repetition and do not appear in regular intervals throughout the piece. Besides mode and genre, the musical motives are some of the most distinguishing markers of Hildegard's style. She wrote music and texts to her songs, mostly liturgical plainchant honoring saints and Virgin Mary for the holidays and feast days, and antiphons. Wide vocal range nad leaps In contrast to the narrow scope of most chants at that day, Hildegard's music has a very wide vocal range, somehow up to two octaves. She traverses the octave scale up and down with as much ease as if to bring heaven and earth together. Unlike the Romanesque curves of most plainchant melodies, Hildegard's melodies are more "angular and 'gothic' - full of the sharply pointed arches that, in the architectural realm, still lay several decades into the future"1 (figure 1). Often we hear rapid ascents in the melodies with a slow, falling decline. The heights of her songs are like spires of Gothic cathedrals shooting upwards into the sky. Fogire 1, 'Spiritus Sanctus, vivificans vita.' Hildegard's musical vocabulary also includes large leaps. ...read more.


As a composer, she expressed herself intensely in the sound and words of her music. To conclude, this is how one of the most remarkably creative personalities of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen, describes herself: "Listen, there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns ornamented with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honor. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I, a feather on the breath of God." "A Feather on the Breath of God" draws upon Hildegard's large collection of music and poetry, the "Symphony of the Harmony of the Celestial Revelations". It contains some of the finest songs ever written in the Middle Ages and a number of the most elaborate, the Sequences are recorded here for the first time. Hildegard expressed her devotional life in exploring music and poetry through spirituality. With her extraordinary creativity and vision from her heart, Hildegard's music made her the significant female composer and musician in the 12th century. ...read more.

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