Posts Tagged 'middle ages'

Wordless Wednesday: Happy St Brigid’s Day!

brigid-theophilia

Theophilia@DeviantArt

Sounds of Heaven

When a medieval German nun was struck at the age of 43 by a vision – flames descending upon her from heaven – it signified to her that she should write music. 900 years after her birth, the chant of Hildegard of Bingen has never been more alluring. Barry Witherden tells her story.

Circa 970 AD, just outside Bingen, Archbishop Hatto II was eaten by mice as punishment for mistreating his flock. In the late 1140s a more dignified kind of fame returned to the neighbourhood when Abbess Hildegard – Saint Hildegard, according to the Roman martyrology and some German diocese, though she was never formally canonised – established a new convent at Rupertsberg just a few miles away. Hildegard was born at Bemersheim in 1098, the tenth child of aristocratic parents who sent her to be educated at the Benedictine convent at Disibodenberg when she was eight. She stayed until about 1147, succeeding as prioress in 1136. By 1150 she had founded her own community at Rupertsberg. She had had visions since she was a child, but in her forty-third year she saw tongues of flames descending onto her from heaven. After a council appointed by the Archbishop of Mainz confirmed the authenticity of her revelations, a monk, Volmar, was commissioned to record them. He continued to act as her secretary at Rupertsberg, and collected 26 of her visions in Scivias (Know the Ways), completed in 1152.

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British Music: A History (1/3)

British music has its roots way back in the past. Simon Trezise uncovers the days before Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, taking us on a journey through the centuries right up to today’s great composers.

Sitting in a restaurant recently and hearing learned continental gourmets at a neighbouring table pouring scorn on British cuisine – fish and chips with salt and vinegar! – was an acid reminder of how many people once regarded British music. For around two centuries (1700-1900) Britain produced not a single composer worthy to stand beside the giants on the continent. And even in the much more productive twentieth century there were lapses: for example, while Germany obstinately maintained its dozens of opera houses through saturation bombing and chronic shortages in the last war, Covent Garden became a dance hall.

Continue reading ‘British Music: A History (1/3)’

Music Monday: Cantori Gregoriani

With medieval chant established as a major mainstream force in the music industry, it’s easy to see two distinct trends among the genre’s performers: On one hand, the monastic choirs, who treat their material as a devotional, recording in liturgical venues (like the Benedictine Monks of Silos, who really got the ball rolling, back in 1994). On the other hand, there are the musicologists, who may not give a fig for the religious aspect of the material, but will do their utmost to preserve the musical treasure. (Okay, there’s a third category, the dilettantes who just want to make a quick buck or ten by riding the trend, but we’re not dealing with those here.)

I Cantori Gregoriani lean mostly towards the latter. Early music specialists to the last singer, they construct their albums following the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, covering material for most of the year’s feasts. Disciplined, though not aseptic, it little matters what they actually believe about their material – what dos matter is that they give it the royal treatment. Go ahead, sample these bits, then go here for much more.

Music Monday: Just a spoonful of neofolk…

Few words today, so that the music can speak. Two of my favourite medieval/neoclassical/neofolk acts, Faun and Omnia, both released new, much anticipated albums recently (Luna and Earth Warrior respectively) and I love them both. Take your pick, or don’t.


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