The Musical World of Hildegard of Bingen

  • PDF:

Hildegard's life (1098-1179) spans most of the twelfth century, one of the richest and most fascinating periods in cultural and intellectual history. Among the distinguished personages of this century are Dante Alighieri, Peter Abelard and his wife Helöise, Thomas á Beckett, John of Salisbury, the fresco painter Gaddo Gaddi, Leonin of Notre Dame, Bernard of Clairvaux, the Gothic architectural pioneer Suger of St. Denis and countless lesser names of philosophic, literary and artistic figures. The abbeys, monasteries, and convents had been the intellectual and artistic centers of Europe since about the year 800 A.D., but it was during the twelfth century that this began to shift to the cathedrals. And it was during this time that schools attached to the cathedrals began to develop into universities. This was how the University of Paris developed out of the Notre Dame Cathedral School and similar developments took place in the establishment of universities such as those of Bologna, Salamanca, and Oxford.

Paradoxically, the shift of intellectual activity from the cloisters to the cathedrals had the effect of bringing a secular influence into the cultural artifacts of that time. This was because the cathedrals were attended and patronized by the nobility and other wealthy and influential lay persons whereas the cloisters were peopled primarily by monks, nuns and low level clerics of the church.1 To be sure, the cloisters were often visited by traveling artists and intellectuals, but the documentation and librarianship of that time were controlled by the clerical officers of the cloisters, persons who belonged to religious orders of the Church.

In the field of musical polyphony and church music, this can be seen in the shift of significant compositional activity away from the Abbey of St. Martial at Limoges to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. St Martial's was established in the ninth century and by the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries had become an important center for church music, particularly polyphony. Organum purum or melismatic organum was developed there, and also the note against note style which soon led to the conductus style of the thirteenth century. But by the late twelfth century the musical developments at the Cathedral of Notre Dame had begun to eclipse those of the St. Martial School, first through the rhythmic developments of Leonin, particularly in his Magnus Liber, and then through the artistry of his successor Perotin. A later manifestation of the shift of musical innovation to the cathedrals is found in the work of Guillaume de Machaut who in the fourteenth century was Canon of the Cathedral at Rheims.2

In the canon of Western music the three composers just mentioned are generally regarded as the earliest professional writers of music whose names are known to history. That is, they are the earliest who self-consciously regarded themselves as composers and who are viewed by history as the earliest Western composers known by name. While there are earlier names to be mentioned such as Odo, John Cotten (Affligamensis), Hucbald, and Guido, historians generally regard these early musical figures as theorists rather than composers even though they certainly composed. When composers became attached to cathedrals, however, they were furnishing a service to the community, not simply providing music for the canonical offices and the mass as in the cloisters. Under the patronage of secular powers, they were creating musical artifacts which began to be viewed as important commodities. They began to be public figures. Perhaps the most famous medieval manifestation of this is Machaut's production of his Mass for the coronation of Charles V of France (Charles the Wise) at Notre Dame in the year 1364, a work which every college music major for the past fifty years has learned is "the first complete musical setting of the ordinary of the mass by an individual composer." As a cathedral musician, Machaut was allowed to indulge his musical and entrepreneurial individuality far more than if he had been a cloistered monk such as Odo or Hucbald.

By contrast, Hildegard of Bingen spent all of her adult life and much of her childhood in one or another cloister and, although she traveled, her perspective on the world of international music would have been limited. In 1106 at the age of eight her affluent and noble parents placed her under the care and guidance of one Jutta, an anchorite nun of noble lineage who lived secluded in the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg in the Rhine valley. There Hildegard learned much, including a good reading knowledge of Latin, while participating in the daily canonical offices through which she certainly would have acquired skill in singing as well as musical knowledge. She took the veil at age seventeen, and when Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard became the sister superior of a group of nuns which had been gradually forming within the Benedictine monastery. It was this group which, around 1147-1150, seceded from the monastery (to the displeasure of the Monks of Disibodenberg) and established a convent at Rupertsberg near Bingen.

Although she had been composing songs to her own religious texts throughout this period, it never would have occurred to Hildegard to have thought of herself as a composer, even if she had been a man. For one thing, she was preoccupied with the writings for which she became justly renowned such as the Scivias. Her desire to reform the Church absorbed much of her time, and in her sixties she undertook several preaching tours along the Main and Rhine rivers. Although she became an international figure, she had neither the opportunity nor the inclination to promote herself as a composer or a poet.

Indeed, she would have thought it an unwomanly thing to do, for in a letter written between 1148 and 1170 to Tengswich of Andernach she quotes the Apostle Paul as follows: "The woman who is subject to the male power of her husband, joined to him through the primal rib, should have great modesty. . . " As the letter continues, she exalts the virtue of humility, especially for women, and it is clear that she possessed a feudal Weltanschauung in which every person should keep to his or her place in society (Flanagan, 1996, pp. 156-159). Both her gender and her cloistered condition argued against her music becoming known beyond a limited circle. By contrast, her contemporary, the less-than-modest Peter Abelard wrote songs and poetry as an avocation which are periodically mentioned in manuscripts as recent as the eighteenth century.

Thus, though known to literary and cultural historians as the "Sybil of the Rhine" for her prophetic and visionary writings, her achievements as a composer have been totally ignored in this century until the past decade or so. That she is now beginning to take her proper and justified place in music history is due in large part to the contemporary feminist movement and this too is a paradox, for she would have heartily disapproved of the feminine attitudes and postures of today. She was a conservative even in her own time and I believe that if she were alive today her strongly held views would have been too orthodox for the women's movement.

In illustration of her neglect as a composer until very recently, the 1969 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica contains an informative entry for her, but makes no mention of her musical achievements. There is no mention of her in the Music History authored by Donald Jay Grout, even in the later editions produced by others. Yet even Gustave Reese, a great scholar who sometimes ventured outside of the canon into the musics of non-Western cultures, makes no mention of her in his monumental Music of the Middle Ages. One would have expected Edith Borroff, in her fine history entitled Music in Europe and the United States, to have discussed Hildegard's music had she known about it in 1971, for part of her mission in that book was to transcend the canon of Western music and to show the limitations of then-prevailing approaches to music history. It was really not until the present decade that Hildegard of Bingen began to come into her own through transcriptions of her music by Pozzi Escot, recordings by Ellen Oak, the Augsburg Ensemble, and others; as well as by the annotated translations of her writings by Baird, Ehrman and Flanagan cited in the attached Bibliography. Today, there are lengthy articles about her highly varied achievements in all of the standard references even including CD Rom encyclopedias such as Grolier and Encarta.

One of my early encounters with the name of Hildegard of Bingen was in a seventeenth century English translation of the letters of Helöise and Abelard. In his Foreword, the translator praised the intellectual achievements of Helöise—that she could read and write Latin, Greek and Hebrew and that her philosophical perceptions were at least equal to those of her teacher and husband, Peter Abelard. Then he added that Hildegard, the Sybil of the Rhine, was the only woman of Helöise's time whose intellectual achievements could conceivably equal those of the wife of Abelard. Thus, Hildegard's achievements as a scholar and mystical visionary have been known for centuries. It is only her artistic achievements3 that have been ignored, and that may be partly because they were not at the top of her own priority list.

We will perhaps never know exactly how she came to write music, but it must be remembered that music was an integral part of the daily lives of every anchorite and anchoress of the middle ages. The Divine Offices or canonical hours were celebrated with a sung service every few hours from the early morning Matins and Lauds throughout the day to Vespers. This would have been true in the out-of-the-way cloisters where Hildegard lived in the Rhine valley, just as it was in the papal centers and cathedrals. Practicing this Opus Dei on a daily basis from the age of eight in the cloister, she would have been profoundly familiar with a vast number of Gregorian chants, but might well have sung them in quite a different manner than the romanticized renderings advocated by the nineteenth and twentieth century Monks of Solesmes. She and her colleagues quite possibly sang them metrically, using the rhythmic modes.4

The appropriate rhythmic character in the performance of Gregorian chant has been the subject of learned discussion from the ninth century to the present. The generally accepted point of view is that the musical rhythm should follow the speech rhythm of the text. In Apel's discussion of rhythm in Gregorian chant, he goes so far as to say that neither he nor anyone else has any certain knowledge of rhythmic performance practice in early chant (Apel, 1958, p.126). Later research has shed some light on the subject, but it continues to be a quagmire of hypotheses and suppositions. One reason for this is that medieval musicians relied a great deal on their memory of the liturgy, so that the extant chant manuscripts in many cases do not indicate all that went into the renditions of Gregorian chant.

In modern times the Benedictine Monks of Solesmes advanced what has been the most widely accepted theory today—namely, that the neumes indicate notes of more or less equal5 duration, like modern eighth notes; and that the first note of recognizable groups of two or three notes should receive an almost imperceptible accent called the ictus. The location of the ictus is defined by a vertical episema, a short vertical line placed above the neume. The vertical episema was the most prevalent, but there were also horizontal episemata. They too were used to indicate an almost imperceptible lengthening of the tone, and sometimes also—when lengthened to encompass two or three neumes—to indicate a rhythmic grouping of two or three tones. The various theories that metrical rhythm was used in medieval chant performance are based upon these groupings of two or three notes indicated by vertical and horizontal episemata. That is, since the medieval metrical feet consisted of groupings of two or three notes, the groupings indicated by the episemata in chant notation could have been meant to indicate the use of metrical rhythm in the singing of ecclesiastical chant. The placement of the icti are explained in the Liber Usualis (p. xxviii). Many episemata can be observed in the early chant notation prior to the establishment of diastemic notation and the four line staff. They are particularly prevalent in the manuscripts of St. Gall.6

The use of metrical or poetic feet originated with the ancient Greeks. From the standpoint of the history of musical rhythm, the references to these meters in the writings of Cicero and Priscian are most significant. Thus the link between poetry, rhetoric and music is an ancient phenomenon, and all Medieval music was heir to it. It is this that has led to the assumption that a rhythmic structure similar to modern compound meters may have been used in Medieval chant performance. The Medieval rhythmic modes are realized in this way in modern notation in Figure 1.


Figure 1. The Medieval Rhythmic Modes Realized in Modern Compound Meters




The Solesmes position remains the most accepted viewpoint. It acknowledges the use of speech rhythm and the groupings of two or three neumes defined by the episemata, but does not advocate the use of meters. While the rhythm of the words and the music are in agreement when viewed in longer phrase units, the ictus does not necessarily coincide with the individual word accents (Paleógraphie Musicale, Vol. VII). Apel acknowledges the Solesmes point of view and the equalist theories. He also admits the evidence that metrical performance may have existed. Thus, it is puzzling that he gives little credence to it, especially since he offers no explanation (Ibid., p. 125, 129-132).

There are reasons to question Apel's summary dismissal of the use of measured rhythms in early Gregorian chant performance. Apparently, finding no consensus among the varied and diverging opinions of the so-called "mensuralists,"7 he concluded that Pothier, author of Les Mélodies Grégoriennes (1881) and a predecessor and teacher of Mocquereau, came closest to a plausible explanation of his favored theory of "free rhythm" (Ibid., p. 130). In point of fact, it is possible to interpret Pothier as a kind of mensuralist, for he perceives the use of breves and longs as having control over the rhythmic character of chant performances—even though there may have been considerable latitude in their relative durations to incorporate a feeling of rhythmic freedom.

The exhaustive research of the Jesuit priest J.W.A. Vollaerts (1901-56) into the rhythmic proportions of Gregorian chant was probably not known to Apel, the definitive second edition of Vollaert's book having been published in 1960—two years after the date of Apel's Gregorian Chant. In a complex but credible argument Vollaerts favors the theory that early performances of Gregorian chant utilized the rhythmic modes. He supports this premise with a vast array of medieval manuscripts which he examined as well as by writings of musicians of the time. His hypothesis is that metrical performances of Gregorian chant were the general rule in the chant performances preceding the tenth century, but that in the succeeding periods the carelessness of the singers and slovenly copying of manuscripts led to a gradual decay of this practice (Vollaerts, 1960, p. 217). He also believed that the practice of organum, which became increasingly prevalent from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, tended to equalize the tones of a chant in order for the singers to more easily match their parts to the other parts (Ibid., pp. 217-218).

Vollaerts believed that the reason that some of the later medieval manuscripts omitted indications of metrical practice is because the musicians relied heavily upon their memory of the chants (Ibid., p. XIII). He cites a large number of manuscripts—all from the Monastery at St. Gall—in which can be seen a gradual disappearance of metrical rhythmic notation from the ninth to the twelfth centuries (Ibid., pp. 12-15). Most important, however, are the writings of various well known musicians of the period—John Cotton (Affligamensis), Guido, Hermanus Contractus, and Odo—all of whom bemoaned the careless performances of singers who allowed the traditions of the past to decay (Ibid., p. 218).

One of the most telling quotes is from Hucbald.8 Since he is dealing with the performance of a Gregorian antiphon, it is concrete evidence that rhythmic-metric performance was common practice in the ninth century. It is in dialogue form as follows:

"1. Teacher: A very careful watch must be kept to ensure that every melody be performed rhythmically.

Pupil: What is 'to perform rhythmically?'

Teacher: This consists of watching to see where one must observe long sound-duration and where, short. For, just as (in poetry) one pays attention to see which syllables are short and which long, so (in music) one must see which are long sounds and which are short, in order that longs and shorts may lawfully alternate with each other, and also in order that the melody may be beaten out as by metrical verse-feet" (Ibid., p. 205; originally in Gerbert, 1784, V. II).

Later on Hucbald speaks of the 2:1 proportion by which he means the changing of a tempo to twice as fast or twice as slow. As in the case of Guido and the other medieval teacher-theorists, Hucbald was undoubtedly writing with his choir boys in mind. The terms short and long in this passage refer to the specific note values of the brevis and the longus.

While there may be no certain knowledge of rhythmic practice in early Gregorian chant performance; the existence of metrical-rhythmic chant performance (at least in the ninth and tenth centuries) cannot be doubted. Vollaerts presents a fascinating chart of several different pre-staff notations of the same melody (Tribulationes Cordis mei) using the incipient Medieval neumes which are actually rhetorical accent symbols. The chart demonstrates the use of the so-called "rhythmic letters" ("c", "a" and "t") which were abbreviations indicating various rhythmic nuances. Vollaerts emphasizes the significance of the episemata in these early examples (Ibid., pp. 147-150).

To summarize, Vollaert's hypothesis is that metrical performances of Gregorian chant were the general rule from their inception at least until the tenth century, but that after that the carelessness of the singers and slovenly copying of manuscripts gradually led to a decay of this practice, perhaps by the end of the twelfth century (Vollaerts, 1960, p. 217). He also believed that the practice of organum, which became increasingly prevalent from the ninth to the twelfth centuries, tended to equalize the tones of a chant in order that the singers could more easily match the tones of the counterpoint or vox organalis to the tones of the chant or vox principalis. It was this equalization which led to the disappearance of metrical renderings of chant, and in the nineteenth century to the codification of chant performance by the Monks of Solesmes.

To fully understand how Gregorian chant would have been performed according to Vollaerts' hypothesis, one must understand that much twelfth century music gave the overall impression of having been composed in lilting compound meters such as the modern 6/8 or 9/8. This is supported by John of Garland (fl. 1240 A.D.) whose treatise De musica mensurabili positio (Coussemaker V.I) describes Perotin's method of composing. "Anonymous IV" (fl. 1275, also in Coussemaker V.I) describes the twelfth century use of the rhythmic modes writing at considerable length of the music of both Perotin and Leonin.

We have no way of knowing whether or not organum was utilized in the cloisters inhabited by Hildegard, but it is likely that it was, since it was practiced far afield in the twelfth century, even as far away as Iceland. On the other hand, Hildegard was a powerful personality as well as one who held to conservative, even orthodox, viewpoints. Thus, it may be that as Abbess she exerted an influence to preserve the pure metric renditions of Gregorian chant unadorned by polyphony. In her own music there are few if any indications of metric practice, but this in no way indicates that meters and rhythmic modes were not used in performance. Groupings of notes in threes or twos could well indicate perfect or imperfect tempi or major or minor prolations even prior to the mensural notation that was to be codified more than a century later. Rhythmic and metric practice was constantly evolving, even as it is today.

It seems logical to presume that Hildegard was amply exposed both to metric renditions of Gregorian chant as well as to the polyphony that was becoming increasingly complex in the twelfth century along with the note against note metrical counterpoint that would later lead to the conductus and the fourteenth century motet. It should also be remembered that she traveled a great deal delivering sermons, especially when she was in her sixties, so she might well have heard a variety of musical practices in various parishes.

Modern transcriptions of chants composed by Hildegard are written in conventional chant notation like the Liber Usualis in modern notation. I am unaware of any attempts to impose a structured meter upon Hildegard's music but in light of the foregoing discussion, it might well be justified. As an experiment, I imposed a 6/8 meter upon Hildegard's Antiphon No. Nine "De Sancta Maria" using the transcription by Pozzi Escot (Escot, 1991). While it was necessary to make some discretionary and perhaps arbitrary judgments in the process, I found that the metrical version revealed a musical quality not found in the original version. In the twentieth century we have come to revere the free speech rhythm of the Solesme-style renditions of Gregorian chant, but it is a revelation to hear them sung with the metrical approach advocated by Vollaerts. There is a great need for a fresh scholarly approach to this literature.

Hildegard's musical experience may also have included secular music, for the twelfth century is one of the richest periods for the art of the aristocratic poet musicians known as Trouvères in southern Europe, especially in Provence, and a few decades later, the Minnesingers of northern Europe. Since the latter group coincided with Hildegard's life both chronologically and geographically, it is likely that she could have heard performances by composer-singers such as Spervogel, Walther von der Vogelweide, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Neidhart von Reuenthal, and Tannhäuser. There are others which could be named, but these are the chief figures whose lives were more or less contemporaneous with Hildegard's later years.

There is evidence in her writings that she not only knew secular music, but was familiar with certain musical instruments not ordinarily used in liturgical services. In that passage of the Scivias (1141) entitled "The Vision of the Virtues," female figures appear, the fifth and last of whom is attired in armor, a helmet, a sword at her side and carrying a spear. "And there were also people," writes Hildegard, "some of whom were sounding trumpets, and others were drolly making a noise with players' instruments, and others were playing diverse games." While the quotation sounds sympathetic to these secular amusements, as the passage concludes, the female warrior "savagely transfixed them with the spear she carried in her right hand" (Flanagan, 1996, p. 31). Hildegard would have attributed this action simply to what she had observed, for ostensibly she was merely reporting her visions. But could the passage also have indicated a disapproval of the frivolity of secular diversions?

When Hildegard writes of voices having to do with music, she often uses the metaphor of flowing waters in a mood of spirituality. Thus, singing without instruments is for her a manifestation of religious devotion. The following is from the passage "Concerning Perseverance and Holiness" from The Book of Life's Merits (1158-1163). "And their voices are as the sound of many waters, since in their praises they sound like the waters of salvation, in the concord of a single sound, and in the spiritual breath of a single will"9 (Ibid., p. 42). Yet near the beginning of the same work in the opening passage entitled "The Vision of the Cosmic Man," a "living fiery multitude" gazed upon a tablet containing secrets of God "And when they looked upon the writings, the might of God gave them the power to resound with all kinds of music in one sound as of a very loud trumpet" (Ibid., p. 40). Lip reed instruments such as sackbuts and trumpets were commonly used throughout feudal Europe as community alarms because of their loud sound. The town brass players, then, held official pseudo-military positions but also functioned in a more purely musical fashion. Turmmusik (tower music) concerts of brass ensembles are presented even today in certain cities such as Innsbruck, a vestige of medieval practice.

Another reference to secular music and an instrument never used in the Church is found in the passage entitled "Jeremiah on the Perdition of Souls," also from The Book of Life's Merits. It is an exegetical passage in which Hildegard writes of what would have happened had you (the reader) walked in God's ways. "He would have displayed you as the light of clarity in the renown of most holy deeds and made you ring like the sweet sound of a lyre" (Ibid., p. 46). This, indeed, implies a high opinion of a non-liturgical and secular musical instrument.

A later passage in The Book of Life's Merits suggests a very broad view of music associated with secular delight and joy, quite the opposite of the asceticism sometimes associated with the cloistered life of the convent. Most of Hildegard's visions are associated with a bright light and this is the case here from the passage concerning "The Heavenly Joys of Seculars . . ." She is speaking of "another intense brightness," greater and clearer than before, and "beyond human understanding" when she writes, "And in it I perceived the totality of every delight, and all kinds of music, and voices of many singers and the joy of those who rejoice, and an abundance of all gladness; . . ." Remembering that she is now speaking of secular joys, a few sentences later she adds, "And they were touched from time to time by a certain very sweet breeze, proceeding from the hidden places of God, having all the perfumes of plants and flowers; and then they gave forth the sound of sweetest harmony, and their voices resounded as the sound of many waters" (Ibid., p. 60). This certainly suggests vocal polyphony of some sort perhaps similar to the Notre Dame organum of Leonin. Thus, it is possible to conclude, at the very least, that Hildegard's musical world included not only the traditional monody of sacred chant sung in the traditional metrical fashion, but also polyphonic music as well as secular musical instruments. Since the latter were used primarily for the accompaniment of secular song, I conclude that she must also have known the music of the Minnesingers.

What then is the nature of this music which might have influenced Hildegard's own musical style? Flourishing a generation or two after the Troubadors and Trouvères, the Minnesingers also were generally of noble lineage. Some were Crusader knights and, like their south European counterparts, often traveled from place to place singing their songs. It is quite possible that some of them may have visited the cloister at Rupertsberg or that Hildegard may have heard them at some point in her travels.

The Minnesinger texts were of a more serious nature than those of the Trouvères, but their Tagelieder and Wächterlieder were similar to the Alba and Alborado—songs of early morning to warn lovers of the approaching dawn or to call them to prayer. Also the Leich was the Minnesinger counterpart of the Lai (or Lay), a strophic song with a text in praise of the Virgin Mary which later evolved into praise addressed to a lady.10

From the perspective of musical scales, the Minnesingers used modality more freely than did the Trouvères with frequent intervals of thirds presaging triadic harmony. Also, since their favorite modes were the Dorian and Phrygian, a minor quality crept into their melodies. Rhythmically, they most certainly would have used the metric modes, with a preference for duple meters such as Trochaic and Iambic. Although strophic forms were common, it appears that the Minnesingers also invented the bar form which Richard Wagner later celebrated in Die Meistersinger. This consisted of Zwei Stollen und ein Abgesang, an AAB form of two identical verses followed by an "aftersong" or refrain (Gleason, 1960, pp. 38-39).

Thus, one can speculate that Hildegard's musical world included not only the profoundly lyrical songs of the liturgy sung not in speech rhythm but in metrical fashion, but also an abundance of musical instruments used for various purposes in the secular world. Nor could she have failed to have heard at least some of the folk song and secular song which abounded during her long life in the twelfth century. Even if her visions were the result of migraines, epilepsy or some other physical or psychological phenomenon (as suggested by her biographers), the secular instruments and choral and solo voices heard therein must have had some basis in real experience. An argument to the contrary would have a Jungian or metaphysical basis and, while I am willing to grant that possibility, it is more likely that her long and productive life was enriched with real musical sounds of substantial variety.



Books and Articles

Apel, Willi; Gregorian Chant; Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1958.

Baird, Joseph L and Radd K. Ehrman (Translators); The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Vol. I (c. 50 of c. 400 extant letters); Oxford University Press, 1995.

Coussemaker, Charles-Edmond Henri de; Scriptorum de musica mediiaevi; Durand, Paris, 1864-1876.

Flanagan, Sabina; Hildegard of Bingen: A Visionary Life; Routledge, London and New York, 1989.

Flanagan, Sabina (Translator); Secrets of God, Writings of Hildegard of Bingen; Shambhala, Boston & London, 1996.

Gerbert, Martin, ed.; Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica sacra potissimum; St. Blasien, 1784; Modern facsimile, Milan, 1931; Reprint, Olms, Hildesheim, 1963.

Gleason, Harold; Music Literature Outlines, Series I, Music in the Middle Ages and Renaissance; Levis Music Stores, 1949.

Liber usualis; Desclée, New York and Tournai, 1962.

Newman, Barbara; Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard's Theology of the Feminine; University of California Press, Berkeley, 1987.

Poels, Henry; "Some Catholics who were vilified, then vindicated" National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 3, 1995, v31 n14, p. 12 cf.

Vollaerts, J. W. A.; Rhythmic Proportions in Early Medieval Ecclesiastical Chant; Second Ed., Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960.

Waite, William G.; The Rhythm of Twelfth Century Polyphony, Its Theory and Practice; University and Oxford University Press, New Haven, 1954.

White, John D; Theories of Musical Texture in Western History; Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London, 1995.


Recent Musical Editions

Davidson, Audrey; The "Ordo Virtutum" of Hildegard; Medieval Institute, Kalamazoo, 1985.

Escot, Pozzi (Ed.); Three Antiphons by Hildegard of Bingen; Antiphons 9, 16, and 53; Literal English Translations from the Latin by the Editor; Hildegard Publishing Co. 1991.


Recent Recordings

Hildegard of Bingen and Her Time, Augsburg Early Music Ensemble, Christophorus 74584 (CD), 1990 (Songs by Hildegard and Abelard).

The Lauds of St. Ursula, Early Music Institute of Indiana University, Focus 911 (CD), 1991.

Jouissance: Hildegard and Abelard, Viriditas, Spectrum Publications (CD), 1994.

1I am using the term cloister in a generic sense to denote any type of abbey, monastery or convent.

2"Canons" of cathedrals are clerical officers charged with specific responsibilities related to canon law. There might have been several canons attached to a major Diocesan center, and Machaut's duties would have been to insure that the musical liturgy was being properly implemented.

3In addition to her musical creativity, she was a skilled illuminator and poet.

4The ensuing discussion of Medieval performance practice in the metrical rendering of liturgical chant is drawn in large part from my recent book Theories of Musical Texture in Western History (Garland, New York and London, 1995).

5The related theories advancing this viewpoint have been called "equalist" theories, of which the Benedictine Monk Mocquereau was the chief proponent.

6Apel's statement that "there is no trace of the vertical episema in any of the medieval sources" is simply incorrect. (Apel, 1958, p. 125)

7Houdard, Riemann, Dechevrens, Fleury, Wagner, Jeannin, Lipphardt, and Jammers

8The authorship of Schola Enchiriadis from which this quotation is drawn remains open to question, although Vollaerts assumes that it is Hucbald.

9The italics in this and following passages appear to be Hildegard's way of highlighting certain passages.

10This mixture of lovemaking and religion has Freudian implications which are beyond the scope of this article.

Read 4169 times

Last modified on Wednesday, 17/10/2018

John White is Professor Emeritus of the University of Florida.  His music is published by G. Schirmer, Galaxy, Ludwig, Lawson-Gould among others.  His books include Theories of Musical Texture in Western History (Garland Press, 1995).

Go to top