Visionary Practice: The Life and Times of Hildegard of Bingen



Abbess. Religious Thinker. Prophet and Reformer. Composer and Dramatist. Poet. Correspondent. Artist. Medical Writer. This course considers the extraordinary life of the twelfth-century Benedictine composer and polymath Hildegard of Bingen. Using her musical settings of the liturgy as points of departure, we explore the social, cultural, and economic history of the Middle Ages and the life of the medieval church. Key themes include medieval ideas about visionary experience, medicine, literature of the post classical Latin tradition, the conflict between religious, mystical, and secular models of life, and the ways women asserted themselves as authors and authorities. The course emphasizes a hands-on approach to Hildegard's musical output and startlingly beautiful poetic voice, including two practical workshops: one on medieval singing and notation and another on close-reading the visual and mystical world of Scivias. The course offers an opportunity to build music-specific skills such as learning to recognize medieval modes, interpreting the relationship of poetic language to performance, and practical applications of western European liturgical and paraliturgical genres. Students also create their own individual performance scores utilizing contemporary notational forms.


John J. Cali School of Music, Montclair State University