Hildegard von Bingen: The Soul’s Ecstasy

The body is truly the garment of the soul, which has a living voice; for that reason it is fitting that the body, simultaneously with the soul, repeatedly sings praises to God through the voice.

For Hildegard von Bingen, music was the vehicle that facilitated union between God and humankind, and song represented one of the highest and most joyful expressions of prayer.

Music recreated the lost divine harmonies on earth and allowed von Bingen to imagine those that would accompany the end of the world. All of the themes that occupied von Bingen intellectually appear in her “canti spirituali,” her spiritual songs—not in the disharmonious language of speech, but rather as they are given form and brought to life by music itself.

Though she received no formal musical education, Von Bingen composed texts that blended the traditions of Gregorian chant with an intuitive compositional grasp that was well ahead of its time, anticipating even the advent of tonal language. As von Bingen herself affirmed, “I composed and chanted plainsong in praise of God and the saints even though I had never studied either musical notation or singing.”

Even centuries after Hildegard von Bingen’s death, her vision, work, and music continue to live, and the luminous image of this “musical saint” endures unaltered.

This program is dedicated to von Bingen’s canti spirituali (some of which can be performed in more than one version) and to sections of her Ordo Virtutum. The presentation of von Bingen’s songs, alternating with poetic readings of her texts and extracts from Ordo Virtutum, occurs in a theatrical staging that can be modified according to the space and facilities available; similarly, the order and content of the program can modified in a number of ways.

a musica ricrea sulla terra l’armonia perduta e permette di immaginare quella della fine dei tempi.

Nei canti spirituali di Hildegard ritornano tutti i temi del suo pensiero, non nella forma disarmonica del linguaggio, ma ordinati e resi vivi dalla musica.

Pur non possedendo una cultura musicale Hildegard compone brani che mescolano la tradizione del canto gregoriano ad intuizioni che precorrono i tempi, anticipando addirittura il linguaggio tonale.

Lei stessa afferma: “Composi anche canzoni e melodie in lode di Dio e dei Santi, senza che nessuno me lo insegnasse, e le cantavo, anche se nessuno mi aveva insegnato la notazione musicale e il canto”.

Le opere, la musica e le visioni di Hildegard von Bingen vivono ancora di vita propria secoli dopo la loro manifestazione e riflettono intatta la figura luminosa di questa “santa in musica”.

Selected Performances

“Music for a Spiritual Setting”, Torba Monastery

Gornate Olona, May 11, 1995

Concert and Conference, The Margaret Fuller Women’s Cultural Center

Pescara, September 26, 1998

University of Studies, The Mimesis Association, Basilica SS Pietro e Paolo

Verona, May 13, 2000

“Dall’Ombra il Filo Sensibile” Concert and Conference, Sant’Ilario Auditorium,

Piacenza, September 7, 2003

“Autunno Musicale” Festival

International conference “The Monastery: A Site of Prayer and Culture”

Capiago Intimiano, September 12, 2007

Como, September 19, 2007