Composer of the Week: Birth of Polyphony

Hildegard of Bingen

Episode 1 Hildegard of Bingen

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Summary

Donald Macleod explores the transition from pure monophony to complex polyphony, beginning by looking at the life and music of Hildegard of Bingen - one of the most celebrated female composers of the middle ages. It is argued that polyphony was never entirely absent from European music-making, nor did monophony suddenly go out of fashion. Nevertheless, a fascinating development can be traced between the 12th and 14th centuries with new musical forms, rhythmic modes and methods of musical notation. Thanks to recordings in recent decades12th-century abbess Hildegard has been propelled from obscurity into the canon of female composers. She not only composed the Latin words for which she supplied the melodies - she also ran her own monastery, designed the eccentric outfits for her high-born nuns, and wrote on a variety of subjects, from visions to the practical uses of birds, beasts and trees. Hildegard of Bingen. O viridissima virga. Gothic Voices, Christopher Page (director). O presul vere civitatis. Oxford Camerata, Jeremy Summerly (director). O Jerusalem (de sancto Ruperto). Emma Kirkby (soprano), Gothic Voices, Christopher Page (director). Favus Distillans. Anonymous 4. O ignee spiritus, O cohors militae floris; O viriditas digiti Dei. Sabine Lutzenberger (soprano and bells), Baptiste Romain (medieval vielles and bowed lyre). Columba aspexit, Emma Kirkby (soprano), Gothic Voices, Christopher Page (director).
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