Wednesday, October 22, 2014

O tu illustrata

Votive antiphon for the Virgin (R 466vb-467ra) by Hildegard of Bingen Back to Table of Contents
O tu illustrata
de divina claritate,
clara Virgo Maria,
Verbo Dei
infusa,
unde venter tuus floruit
de introitu
Spiritus Dei,
qui in te
sufflavit
et in te exsuxit
quod Eva abstulit
in abscisione puritatis,
per contractam
contagionem de
suggestione diaboli.

Tu mirabiliter abscondisti in te
inmaculatam carnem
per divinam racionem,
cum Filius Dei
in ventre tuo floruit,
sancta divinitate
eum educente
contra carnis iura
que construxit Eva,
integritati copulatum
in divinis visceribus.
Illumined by
God’s clearest brightness,
O Virgin Mary bright,
with the Word of God
infused,
your womb then flourished at
the entrance of
God’s Spirit—
within you
he breathed,
within drew out
the loss of Eve,
a purity cut off and silenced
by that disease
contracted at
the Devil’s sly persuasion.

You wondrously held hid within yourself
a flesh kept undefiled
according to God’s Reason—
for when the Son of God
within your womb was blossomed,
divinity most holy
brought him forth
to abrogate the laws of flesh
establishéd by Eve,
for he was joined to whole integrity
in flesh and womb divine.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

O tu illustrata by Hildegard Von Bingen on Grooveshark





Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

In this antiphon, Hildegard celebrates the restoration of procreative purity and integrity in the Virgin’s womb, prepared to receive and bring forth the flower of the Incarnate God. It is a fitting close to the Marian section of the Symphonia, as it reflects and refracts many of Hildegard’s most characteristic themes for the Virgin. The piece naturally falls into three unequal thematic movements: its first half contrasts the realms of the divine and of the fallen, while the final movement celebrates Mary’s place in mediating the two.

This thematic movement is echoed in the musical setting. In the first third of the antiphon (O tu illutrata…qui in te sufflavit), Hildegard establishes a steady rhythm that repeats a set of several self-contained motifs with various minor variations, including transpositions up or down the scale. Many of the phrases in this first section also begin with leaps of the fourth and the fifth within the plagal octave of A-D-A (for an explanation of the piece’s shifting modalities, see Beverly Lomer’s commentary on the music below). The repetition creates an appropriate atmosphere for meditating upon the steady and self-referential movements of the divinity in its relationship to the Virgin, first in the Father’s light, then in the Son’s Word, and finally in the Spirit’s breath. The mood of the music then shifts as we enter into the drama of Eve’s purity lost to the Devil’s poison, with much less repetition and quicker movement up and down the scale, further emphasized by the temporary shift of tonal outlining to E on contagionem de suggestione diaboli. Finally, in the second half of the antiphon, Hildegard marries these two musical styles by reintroducing the use of repeated motifs (e.g. on in te and carnem) within the wider movement of pitch, especially as the piece reaches a fifth higher on ventre than it had up to that point, to its highest note of the D two octaves above middle C, producing an entire range of two-and-a-half octaves.

Despite the thematic height of the opening lines and their meditation upon the divine power flowing into the Virgin’s womb, that musical height is only reached in the later return to that womb, for a full appreciation of its exaltation can only come in mirrored contrast to the depth of fallenness from which the divinity had to restore it. As in other pieces (e.g. Ave Maria, O auctrix vite, O clarissima, and O virga ac diadema), the symbolic parallels between Eve and Mary were a primary and powerfully fertile locus for Hildegard’s poetic imagination. The key to her exploration of this parallel in this antiphon is Hildegard’s perception that the Virgin’s conception of the Son of God took place in accord with the original, paradisical model of procreation—the state in which Adam and Eve were created, whose “most distinctive feature (…) was the state of integrity—wholeness of mind and body—which includes but transcends physical virginity.” As Barbara Newman continues:
In Paradise, Adam and Eve were indeed free from lust, but their union would not have been without pleasure. Rather, husband and wife would have lain side by side, and they would gently perspire as if sleeping. Then the woman would become pregnant from the man’s perspiration (sudor), and, while they lay thus sweetly asleep, she would give birth to a child painlessly from her side … in the same way that God brought Eve forth from Adam, and that the Church was born from the side of Christ.”[1]
The gentle and noble beauty of this paradiscal nature is taken up in the Incarnation in Hildegard’s explication of Ps. 44[45]:3, “Beautiful in form above the children of men:”
In Him shines forth beauty, the noblest form free from any spot of sin, without a splash of human corruption, and lacking all desire for the sinful works demanded by fleshly human weakness. None of these ever touched this human. And the body of the Son of Man was born more purely than other people, for the stainless Virgin bore her Son in ignorance of sin, and thus ignorant of the sorrow of childbirth. How? She never felt any stubborn urge to sin, and therefore the pains of childbirth were unknown to her; but the wholeness of her body [corporis sui integritas] rejoiced within her. Oh, how beautiful then His body!
     —Scivias III.1.8[2]
Hildegard explains in greater detail the importance of this paradisical integritas corporis in the Virgin’s salvific role in the figure of Chastity, one of the virtues that appears upon the Pillar of the Savior’s Humanity in Scivias III.8. In the vision itself, this figure of Chastity declares (Scivias III.8.7):
I am free and not fettered, for I have passed through the pure Fountain Who is the sweet and loving Son of God. I have passed through Him, and I have come forth from Him. And I tread underfoot the Devil with his limitless pride, who has prevailed to fetter me. He is alien from me, because I am always in the Heavenly Father.”
Later, Hildegard’s heavenly voice reveals the significance of Chastity’s appearance (Scivias III.8.24):
She is dressed in a tunic purer and more brilliant than crystal, which shines resplendent like water when the sun reflects from it. It is brilliant because of her simple intent, and pure because it is not covered with the dust of burning desire; miraculously strengthened by the Holy Spirit, she is enwrapped in the garment of innocence, which shines in the bright white light [in clarissima albedine] of the Fountain of living water, the splendid Sun of eternal glory.

And a dove is poised over her head, facing her with its wings spread as if to fly. This is to say that Chastity at her beginning, at her head, as it were, is protected by the extended and overshadowing wings of the Holy Spirit; and so she can fly through the Devil’s snares, one after another. For the Spirit comes with the ardent love of holy inspiration to wherever Chastity shows her sweet face.

Therefore too, in her womb as if in a pure mirror appears a pure infant, on whose forehead is written, “Innocence.” For in the heart of this purest and brightest of virtues there lives inviolable, beautiful and sure integrity [integritas]. Its form is immature because it is simple infancy that has integrity; and its forehead, which is to say its knowledge, shows no arrogance and pride but only simple innocence.

And in her right hand she holds a royal scepter, but she has laid her left hand to her breast. This is to say that on the right, the side of salvation, life is shown in Chastity through the Son of God who is the King of all people. And through Him as defender, Chastity confounds the left, the side of lust, and reduces it to nought in the hearts of those who love her.[3]
This image of virgin Chastity bearing the infant Integrity elaborates the second half of this antiphon, but also brings to mind two other of Hildegard’s compositions for the Virgin that illuminate the first half of the antiphon. Chastity’s gleaming garment shares the properties of reflecting and refracting light that Hildegard attributed to the Virgin in the antiphon, O splendidissima gemma, in which the Virgin’s body is a sparkling gem through which the divine light pours, a lens to focus that light into the world. Moreover, Hildegard’s contrast of the Virgin to Eve’s diseased fall, together with her frequent references to the healing properties of gemstones, focuses our attention on the responsory, O clarissima, in which the Virgin becomes healer dispensing from her womb the balm of salvation.

The disease that the Virgin’s ointment heals is described in this antiphon as the infection that Eve “contracted / at the Devil’s sly persuasion”—her loss of virginal purity, the gleaming garment of a translucid gem that her body was made to be. The word that Hildegard uses to describe that loss of purity—abscisio—carries in Latin the same double meaning that being cut off does in English: it can mean both a literal loss and the loss of the right to speak. This is the shame-faced silence with which humanity’s first fallen parents looked mournfully upon their homeless offspring in the antiphon Cum erubuerint—and it is the silence that was broken in that same antiphon by the Virgin’s clara voce, “crystal voice”. The Virgin’s clarion call reechoed the musical harmony of Adam and Eve’s paradisical speech, silenced by the Devil’s acrimony in the Fall but restored by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of the prophets and saints. Hildegard’s most powerful theological meditation on this restoration of prelapsarian harmony came in the last year of her life, when she described its paradisical power to overwhelm the devil in the famous (and scathing) letter she wrote to the prelates of Mainz in her attempts to have an interdict lifted from her abbey:
When we consider these things carefully, we recall that man needed the voice of the living Spirit, but Adam lost this divine voice through disobedience. For while he was still innocent, before his transgression, his voice blended fully with the voices of the angels in their praise of God. Angels are called spirits from that Spirit which is God, and thus they have such voices by virtue of their spiritual nature. But Adam lost that angelic voice which he had in paradise, for he fell asleep to that knowledge which he possessed before his sin, just as a person on waking up only dimly remembers what he had seen in his dreams. And so when he was deceived by the trick of the devil [suggestione diaboli] and rejected the will of his Creator, he became wrapped up in the darkness of inward ignorance as the just result of his iniquity.

God, however, restores the souls of the elect to that pristine blessedness by infusing them with the light of truth. And in accordance with His eternal counsel, He so devised it that whenever He renews the hearts of many with the pouring out of the prophetic Spirit, they might, by means of His interior illumination, regain some of the knowledge which Adam had before he was punished for his sin.

And so the holy prophets get beyond the music of this exile [in hoc exsilio] and recall to mind that divine melody of praise which Adam, in company with the angels, enjoyed in God before his fall. For, inspired by the Spirit which they had received, they were called not only to compose psalms and canticles (by which the hearts of listeners would be inflamed) but also to construct various kinds of musical instruments to enhance these songs of praise with melodic strains.
(…)
Consider, too, that just as the body of Jesus Christ was born of the purity [ex integritate] of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, so, too, the canticle of praise, reflecting celestial harmony, is rooted in the Church through the Holy Spirit. The body is the vestment of the spirit, which has a living voice [vivam vocem], and so it is proper for the body, in harmony with the soul, to use its voice to sing praises to God.[4]

Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer

Mode: This antiphon changes modal centers and involves variously G, D, A, E, and B. It moves from a start on G/D, to D/A, to E, and finally to B. Some editors have ‘regularized’ these changes by transposing parts of the antiphon, but because the shifting tonalities are very clearly specified in the manuscript, the transcription remains faithful to its source.
Range: A below middle C to D two octaves and a second above middle C
Setting: neumatic, with short melismatic gestures

This antiphon is a most interesting piece in the way it changes modal centers. It appears only in the Riesenkodex, and while the changes seem idiosyncratic, the neumes and clef changes are quite clear. The salutation, O tu illustrata, begins on G and ends on A, as does the next phrase, with a similar melody expanded to a higher range. The third musical line also begins on G, but ends on D. It is possible to interpret these three musical segments as they are divided in the transcription, or as one long phrase that works with both the G mode and its plagal version on D. As the next part begins on that plagal D and then makes use of A as a punctuating pitch, it could be that Hildegard is playing with the sonorities, as A is the plagal version of D.

It remains within these sonorities until page 2, lines 8 and 9 of the transcription (contagionem de | suggestione diaboli), when it briefly moves from A-G to E to outline phrase segments. In the antiphon’s second half, the melody then returns to A for its tonal outliner until page 3, line 3 (cum Filius Dei), where C is introduced as an additional grammatical marker. The modulation gets even more interesting thereafter, as the final line of the antiphon is outlined by B, while the next-to-last line (integritati copulatum, end of page 3) begins on C. It is possible to shift the focus to G and B by ending the previous line at construxit on B and moving Eva to the beginning of the next phrase to make it begin on G rather than C. This would accord better with the last line of the piece, which is outlined by B, but doing so would seriously disrupt the text. This irregular use of C makes little sense theoretically, but perhaps Hildegard was experimenting with changing tonal centers and, given her lack of formal music training and her penchant for throwing in some idiosyncratic gestures, that might be all there is to it.

So as far as performance decisions are concerned, there is room for interpretation. It should be kept in mind that medieval Latin did not prize word order the way modern languages do, and that the language of monastic devotion emphasized certain key themes and images. Hildegard often musically emphasizes the key themes with tonal markings and other emphatic gestures such as leaps, melismas and repeated melodic segments. Therefore, there does not appear to be a definitive ‘version’ of the phrasing here.

Further Resources for O tu illustrata
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 106 and 270.
  • Lomer, Beverly R. “Rhetoric and the Creation of Feminist Consciousness in the Marian Songs of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).” Ph.D. diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2006.
  • Lomer, Beverly. Music, Rhetoric and the Sacred Feminine. Saarbrücken, Germany: Verlag Dr. Müller, 2009.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography

Footnotes

[1] Barbara Newman, Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine (Univ. of California Press, 1987), p. 111. 
[2] Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias, trans. Mother Columba Hart and Jane Bishop (Paulist Press, 1990), pp. 314-15; Latin text in the edition of Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43a (Brepols, 1978), pp. 336-7. 
[3] Adapted from the trans. of Hart and Bishop, pp. 445-6; Latin text ed. Führkötter and Carlevaris, CCCM 43a, pp. 510-11. 
[4] Letter 23, Hildegard to the prelates at Mainz. Adapted from The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen. Volume I, trans. Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 76-80; Latin text in Epistolarium I, ed. L. Van Acker, CCCM 91 (Brepols, 1991), pp. 61-6. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

O quam preciosa

Responsory for the Virgin (R R 468rb) by Hildegard of Bingen Back to Table of Contents
R. O quam preciosa est
virginitas virginis huius
que clausam
portam habet,
et cuius viscera
sancta divinitas
calore suo infudit, ita
quod flos in ea crevit.

R. Et Filius Dei per secreta ipsius
quasi aurora exivit.

V. Unde dulce germen,
quod Filius ipsius est,
per clausuram ventris eius
paradisum aperuit.

R. Et Filius Dei per secreta ipsius
quasi aurora exivit.
R. How precious is
this Virgin’s sweet virginity,
a closéd
gate
whose womb
divinity most holy with
its warmth has flooded so
a flower sprung within it.

R. The Son of God has come forth from
her hidden chamber like the dawn.

V. And so the sweet and tender shoot—
her Son—
has through her womb’s enclosure
opened Paradise.

R. The Son of God has come forth from
her hidden chamber like the dawn.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

O quam preciosa by Hildegard Von Bingen on Grooveshark



Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

This responsory is an expanded meditation on the themes of the antiphon, Hodie aperuit nobis: the gate, the flower, and the dawn light. It again draws on the imagery of Ezekiel 44:1-3 to envision the Virgin’s chaste womb as the “closed gate” of the Temple whose threshold only the Lord’s Prince could cross. The connection between the Temple gate and the gate behind which Hildegard and her cloistered nuns lived is made here more explicit, as is the symbolic conflation of temple, cloister, garden, and womb. The repetendum and verse in particular elegantly express the happy paradox of Mary’s hidden enclosure as a Virgin—an enclosure physically enacted by Hildegard and her nuns—from which the light of a reopened paradise burst forth.

There is a serene tenderness about this responsory that easily conjures the image of Hildegard herself sitting quietly in her garden, contentedly composing in her heart as her hands tended to the flowers and herbs. The Virgin’s secreta—an elegant expression for her private parts, as it were—are symbolically aligned with the privateness of the garden, a place where Hildegard could go to be alone with God in the viridity of creation. At the same time, there is an undercurrent of chaste eroticism in the tender warmth of God flooding into the Virgin’s womb as the warm sunlight floods into Hildegard’s private garden. The tenderness is reflected in the music’s effortless lightness of touch, which appears even in the octave-and-half run of notes up the scale on sancta divinitatis in the respond, as Hildegard circles round three more times to the A-C-D opening of sancta on infudit, ita, and crevit, a motif that reappears twice in the repetendum.

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

D mode
Range: A below the final to D an octave above the final
Setting: neumatic and melismatic

D is the primary grammatical marker in O quam preciosa. A is also used. On page 2 of the transcription, the phrase, quod Filius ipsius est, is outlined by G. It can be grouped with the phrase before and the phrase after to make one long statement, or broken up as indicated in the transcription.

The repetendum begins with a single neume D on Et and is followed by a compound one that includes the leap from D to A. The upward leap of a fifth is usually used to indicate the start of a phrase, but in this case, the repetendum must begin with Et. It is likely that the single neume D on Et should be slurred into the leap on Filius. The same doubled initial note before the leap is found in page 1, line 8, on the phrase, quod flos in ea crevit; one could alternatively group quod with the previous phrase and thus begin with flos on the leap.

There is also an alternative way to think about the phrasing of the opening respond: O quam preciosa est virginitas virginis could be sung as one phrase. Huius could then begin the next phrase: huius que clausam. This phrasing would outline the first statement with the modal final, and if one sings it that way, line 8 should probably be adjusted also to begin with flos on the D to A leap. The Latin sense is better served by the phrasing we have used in the transcription, but the freedoms of chanted verse allow interpretive latitude.

Further Resources for O quam preciosa

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

O gloriosissimi lux vivens angeli

Votive antiphon for the Angels (D 159r, R 468rb-va, Scivias III.13.2a) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
O gloriosissimi lux vivens angeli,
qui infra divinitatem
divinos oculos
cum mistica obscuritate
omnis creature aspicitis
in ardentibus desideriis,
unde numquam
potestis saciari:

O quam gloriosa
gaudia illa vestra
habet forma,
que in vobis est
intacta ab omni pravo opere,
quod primum ortum est
in vestro socio,
perdito angelo,
qui volare voluit
supra intus latens
pinnaculum Dei,
unde ipse tortuosus
dimersus est in ruinam,
sed ipsius instrumenta casus
consiliando facture
digiti Dei instituit.
O living light, O angels glorious!
Below divinity,
upon the eyes divine you gaze
within the darkness mystical
of all creation—
in yearnings set alight
where you can ne’er
be quenched nor satiated:

How glorious too
are these, your joys
your form possesses—
that form that in your number
remains untouched by ev’ry wicked deed
that first arose
in your companion,
that now lost angel
who wished to fly
above, within the hidden
pinnacle of God—
then twisted, tortured, he
was plunged into his ruin.
But yet, his fall’s devices
by cunning plot he laid against the craft
of God’s creative finger.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.





Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer

Mode: E with a modulation
Range: G below the final E to F an octave and a second above the final
Setting: syllabic and neumatic with several short melismas

This is a musically interesting song in several ways. It begins and ends in E, but the pitch focus changes to A and then to D. Flats have been added, which suggests a temporary transposition. The way in which Hildegard achieves this ‘modulation’ or change of focal pitch is clever. On page 1 of the transcription, E is clearly established as the primary pitch, beginning the piece and outlining the first several phrases. Line 4, page 1 of the transcription, ends on A, and A and E alternate as key tones.

On page 2, line 3, the grammatical indicator becomes D. Line 2 ends on E, which is musically conclusive. However, the text is continued by the conjunction que, which is set to D on line 3. While this would not be unusual, to move to the pitch below the final to set a connecting word, the tonal center now shifts to D. It remains in alternation between D and A until the final line/pitch where it concludes on E, the final that was established in the beginning. According to Julia Smucker, our singer consultant, this feels odd and ‘unresolved.’ In this segment, D could be the plagal version of the A ‘modality,’ which is not used as a conventional mode in this period but appears frequently in Hildegard’s work. Or, alternatively, one could consider a ‘modulation’ to D with A as the plagal. In this case, the addition of the flats above the final E would be consistent with E only in the upper species.

In her transcription, Marianne Richert Pfau ‘regularized’ the piece by moving it up a second. The introduction gives no rationale for the editorial change, and she references the flats only to the Dendermonde manuscript.[1] Both D and R agree on the pitch changes and generally on the addition of the flats, so it is not likely to have been an error.

The opening salutes the glorious light-giving angels, who are beneath the divinity but gaze on God in “mystical obscurity of all creation” and in “ardent desires.” The verb, aspicitis [gaze] appears on line 6 of the transcription, after the descriptives. In this segment, E clearly outlines the first three phrases, but on line 4, a shift to A occurs. Aspicitis has been given its own line in the transcription because it is clearly outlined by the A below the final and on account of the choice to place it last in the narrative statement. It can be sung with the previous line, however, and Julia recommends thism because the leap of a sixth that would result if it was combined with line 7 would be awkward in performance. In the transcription, the next two lines begin with F. While line 7 could be considered as a continuation/completion of aspicitis, that leaves line 8, which begins also with F on its own. To combine all three would make for quite a long phrase.

On page 2, line 8 is coupled with line 7 to make one phrase, and a tick barline has been inserted for clarity.

Regarding the flats, there are several instances in which a similar melodic fragment has a signed flat and in which it does not. For example, on page 2, note the similarity in melody on forma, intacta, quod and vestro socio. Flats appear only on intacta and vestro. Habet forma is clearly outlined by E and so a flat would not necessarily be indicated. The others appear after the modal change and so it would not be incorrect to add flats on similar segments in the D/A focus segments.

On page 3, D becomes the primary tonal marker until the end, when the last two lines neatly segue back to E.

Further Resources for O gloriosissimi lux vivens angeli

Footnotes

[1] Pfau, Marianne Richert. Hildegard von Bingen, Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum, Volume IV Chants for the Celestial Hierarchy. Bryn Mawr, Pa., Hildegard Publishing Company, pp. 2-4. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

O tu suavissima virga

Responsory for the Virgin (D 156v, R 468r, Scivias III.13.1b) by Hildegard of Bingen Back to Table of Contents
R. O tu suavissima virga
frondens de stirpe Jesse,
O quam magna virtus est
quod divinitas
in pulcherrimam filiam aspexit,
sicut aquila in solem
oculum suum ponit:

R. Cum supernus Pater claritatem Virginis
adtendit ubi Verbum suum
in ipsa incarnari voluit.

V. Nam in mistico misterio Dei,
illustrata mente Virginis,
mirabiliter clarus flos
ex ipsa Virgine
exivit:

R. Cum supernus Pater claritatem Virginis
adtendit ubi Verbum suum
in ipsa incarnari voluit.

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui
sancto, sicut erat in principio.

R. Cum supernus Pater claritatem Virginis
adtendit ubi Verbum suum
in ipsa incarnari voluit.
R. O sweetest branch,
you bloom from Jesse’s stock!
How great the mighty power,
that divinity
upon a daughter’s beauty gazed—
an eagle turns his eye
into the sun:

R. As Heaven’s Father tended to the Virgin’s splendor
when he willed his Word
in her to be incarnate.

V. For in God’s mystic mystery,
the Virgin’s mind illuminéd,
the flower bright—a wonder!—
forth from that Virgin
sprung:

R. As Heaven’s Father tended to the Virgin’s splendor
when he willed his Word
in her to be incarnate.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and the Spirit
Holy, as it was in the beginning.

R. As Heaven’s Father tended to the Virgin’s splendor
when he willed his Word
in her to be incarnate.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

O tu suavissima virga by Ensemble Mediatrix on Grooveshark





Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer

A mode
Range: E below the final to C an octave and a 3rd above the final
Setting: neumatic with several melismas on key words

It seems that there are several errors in the Dendermonde manuscript that have been corrected in the Riesenkodex version of this responsory. The most significant one is the opening notes. D begins on B, which is highly unlikely in an A mode piece. R gives the opening on A, which is probably correct. The other appears on page 2, line 1 of the transcription, at the opening of the repetendum. While the melody in D might not be an error, R changes it. The phrase, Cum supernus Pater claritatem, ends on G in D, but R lowers the last passage by a third to end on E, which is a more common tonal punctuator in this mode. This solution, however, removes some of the rhetorical import of the reach to the high C, a tone that is not as common in the A mode but which Hildegard often uses for emphasis.

Most phrases are outlined by A, the modal final; E above the final is also used. There are a few places where further interpretation is possible, e.g. page 1 of the transcription, lines 3 and 4. It is possible to continue line 3 to include quod divinitas in one phrase; a tick barline has been inserted there for reference. That would make the next phrase start with, in pulcherrimam filiam aspexit. Though Hildegard does not usually dilute the upward leap of a fifth by the use of a repeated note before, here the extra beat on the preposition would be the intended phrasing for this gesture. Similarly, the opening gesture in the repetendum, Cum supernus Pater claritatem, begins on a single note A and is followed by a pes neume with the leap from A to E; this opening phrase cannot be broken. Although we have sometimes broken the textual syntax to allow the musical opening of the fifth to stand alone in other songs, this song demonstrates that that cannot be a hard and fast rule.

In O tu suavissima virga, Mary pre-exists the Incarnation as a radiant being who was chosen by God on this account. While radiance was traditionally attributed to Mary, here Hildegard hints at an illumination that resonates with primary divinity. God, the eagle, sets His eye on the sun, Mary. The melodic substructure reinforces the association. The highest pitch, C, occurs on the word solem (sun): “divinity gazed upon a beautiful daughter as an eagle turns his eye into the sun.”

An elaboration of the same melody and registral high pitch also fall on claritas in the repetendum, the radiance of the Virgin, with a final iteration of the motive on voluit (willed): “When the heavenly Father noticed the Virgin’s radiance, when he willed his Word in her to be incarnate.” Significantly, these are the only occurrences of this melodic fragment.

Interestingly, in the verse, Hildegard also describes Mary’s mind as illumined, and as a result, she brought forth the flower of the Son. Hildegard insisted that rationality was equally a quality of men and women, and thus the metaphor also serves her larger goal in these songs—the recovery of the original glory of Woman.

Further Resources for O tu suavissima virga
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 132 and 277-8.
  • Lomer, Beverly R. “Rhetoric and the Creation of Feminist Consciousness in the Marian Songs of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).” Ph.D. diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2006.
  • Lomer, Beverly. Music, Rhetoric and the Sacred Feminine. Saarbrücken, Germany: Verlag Dr. Müller, 2009.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography

O viridissima virga

Song to the Virgin (R 474rb-va) Back to Table of Contents
by Hildegard of Bingen
1. O viridissima virga,
ave, que in ventoso flabro sciscitationis
sanctorum prodisti.

2. Cum venit tempus quod tu floruisti in ramis tuis,
ave, ave fuit tibi, quia calor solis in te sudavit
sicut odor balsami.

3. Nam in te floruit
pulcher flos qui odorem dedit
omnibus aromatibus que arida erant.

4. Et illa apparuerunt omnia in viriditate plena.

5. Unde celi dederunt rorem super gramen
et omnis terra leta facta est,
quoniam viscera ipsius frumentum
protulerunt et quoniam volucres celi nidos
     in ipsa habuerunt.

6. Deinde facta est esca hominibus
et gaudium magnum epulantium.
Unde, o suavis Virgo, in te non deficit ullum gaudium.

7. Hec omnia Eva contempsit.

8. Nunc autem laus sit Altissimo.
1. O branch of freshest green,
O hail! Within the windy gusts of saints
upon a quest you swayed and sprouted forth.

2. When it was time, you blossomed in your boughs—
“Hail, hail!” you heard, for in you seeped the sunlight’s warmth
like balsam’s sweet perfume.

3. For in you bloomed
so beautiful a flow’r, whose fragrance wakened
all the spices from their dried-out stupor.

4. They all appeared in full viridity.

5. Then rained the heavens dew upon the grass
and all the earth was cheered,
for from her womb she brought forth fruit
and for the birds up in the sky
     have nests in her.

6. Then was prepared that food for humankind,
the greatest joy of feasts!
O Virgin sweet, in you can ne’er fail any joy.

7. All this Eve chose to scorn.

8. But now, let praise ring forth unto the Highest!
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.





Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

G mode
Range: D below the final to F a seventh above the final (unusual)
Setting: primarily syllabic with some neumatic segments

This is one of the few songs that Hildegard composed in the G mode. G is the primary grammatical marking tone. Most of the phrases are clearly organized in accordance with this pitch.

The piece begins with a salutation to Mary, O viridissima virga, which is outlined by G. Ave, which properly belongs with the salutation, begins on G and ends on D. Musically it fits better with the second phrase, que in ventoso flabro sciscitationis. Lyrically, however, it is awkward. The transcription follows the musical lead, but other interpretations are possible.

On page 1, line 5 ends with B but the phrase continues to the end of the next line. It is too long to place on one line, and a tick barline has been inserted for clarity. The opening of the next verse (lines 7 and 8) could also alternatively be rendered as one phrase.

On page 2, lines 7 and 8 are meant to be sung as one phrase. A tick barline has been included to clarify. Moreover, the next line (ullum gaudium) properly belongs with the previous line, as indicated in the text above. It has been separated for purposes of readability and also for length. The three lines might be difficult to sing on one breath and hence a pause can be taken after either of lines 7 or 8.

Further Resources for O viridissima virga
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 126 and 276-7.
  • Lomer, Beverly R. “Rhetoric and the Creation of Feminist Consciousness in the Marian Songs of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).” Ph.D. diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2006.
  • Lomer, Beverly. Music, Rhetoric and the Sacred Feminine. Saarbrücken, Germany: Verlag Dr. Müller, 2009.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Alleluia! O virga mediatrix

Alleluia-verse for the Virgin (R 473vb) by Hildegard of Bingen Back to Table of Contents
Alleluia!
O virga mediatrix,
sancta viscera tua
mortem superaverunt
et venter tuus omnes creaturas
illuminavit
in pulchro flore de suavissima integritate
clausi pudoris tui
orto.
Alleluia!
O branch and mediatrix,
your sacred flesh
has conquered death,
your womb all creatures
illumined
in beauty’s bloom from that exquisite purity
of your enclosèd modesty
sprung forth.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.





Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

This verse, meant to accompany the singing of the Gospel at Mass, is one of Hildegard’s elegant meditations on the Virgin Mary’s role in salvation history as prefigured in the “flowering branches” of two Old Testament figures (cf. O viridissima virga and O tu suavissima virga): Aaron’s blooming staff (Numbers 17:1-11) and the branch of the root and Tree of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). The prefiguration was particularly fertile for medieval minds because of the similarity of the two Latin words, virgo (virgin) and virga (branch or rod), and the illustration of salvation history as a tree of life rooted in those patriarchs and blossoming into the Virgin and the fruit of her womb was popular in medieval art.

Springing from that fundamentally verdant image, this verse rings on several themes characteristic of her treatment of the Virgin Mother, images quite familiar from throughout Hildegard’s Marian corpus, e.g. O splendidissima gemma, Hodie aperuit, and Ave generosa. Her blossoming flower breaks forth like the dawn, viscerally aligned with the fruit of her womb bursting forth into the world to redeem it. The elaborate melisma on the opening Alleluia! makes this verse particularly appropriate for use during the Easter season, thus providing an additional parallel between Christ springing up from the fertile ground of Mary’s womb, a flower borne upon the light of dawn, and his rising again from the dead. The even more elaborate melisma that closes the verse on orto—the flower “sprung forth” and “raised”—re-enforces this parallel. Although Hildegard does not explicitly make a play on the parallel of womb and tomb, one cannot help but observe the juxtaposition of enclosure and openness, a paradox shared by Virgin Mother and Buried Life. The exquisite sweetness of the Virgin’s pure wholeness (suavissima integritas) is paradoxically fertile ground for the Savior, precisely because her garden remains modestly closed to the intrusions of sin and lust.

But the most powerful image of this verse, like the final verse of the sequence, O virga ac diadema, is the one that transfers salvific agency directly into the heart and flesh of the Virgin herself: she is the mediatrix, the feminine mediator, and it is her flesh (viscera tua) that overcame death (mortem superaverunt, a theme treated also in Quia ergo femina). Hildegard here invokes one of her most striking gender inversions to express the radical complementarity between feminine and masculine, Mother and Son, in the central event of salvation history. The Virgin’s fertile womb is the necessary instrument for mediating the Incarnation (cf. O clarissima), and she thus becomes the indispensible Mother without whom that mediation of salvation would not have been possible. That salvific power is paradoxically delicate—the tender and beautiful flower of her virgin womb can only mediate death-destroying Life to the world because it remains enclosed and modest.

Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer

E mode
Range: D below the final to G an octave and a third above the final
Setting: melismatic and neumatic

This is a relatively straightforward piece. Phrases are outlined by the final, E, and alternatively by B.

The lengthy salutation begins with an extensive melisma on Alleluia, which is outlined by the modal final. It continues with the line, O virga mediatrix. The two lines of the salutation in the transcription should be considered one phrase, and a tick barline has been inserted to clarify.

The wording is elliptical. Hildegard attributes salvific agency to Mary’s holy womb with the lines, sancta viscera tua mortem superaverunt, et venter tuus omnes creaturas illuminavit. These lines are given more elaborate and thus emphatic musical treatment than the statement that follows, in pulchro flore, which is stated syllabically and thus briefly as opposed to what went before. This is typical of Hildegard’s Mariology in the Symphonia. She assigns a certain independent salvific power to Mary, reinforced by the music, and then adds the conventional, “through her Son” motif, which is downplayed by the melodic substructure. To fully appreciate Hildegard’s subtlety, it is important to keep in mind that music and text are inseparable for her. Thus she appears to skirt the edges of convention in these songs.

Further Resources for Alleluia! O virga mediatrix
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 124 and 276.
  • Lomer, Beverly R. “Rhetoric and the Creation of Feminist Consciousness in the Marian Songs of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).” Ph.D. diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2006.
  • Lomer, Beverly. Music, Rhetoric and the Sacred Feminine. Saarbrücken, Germany: Verlag Dr. Müller, 2009.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography

Saturday, October 11, 2014

O frondens virga

Psalm antiphon for the Virgin (D 155r) by Hildegard of Bingen Back to Table of Contents
O frondens virga,
in tua nobilitate stans
sicut aurora procedit:
nunc gaude et letare
et nos debiles dignare
a mala consuetudine liberare
atque manum tuam porrige
ad erigendum nos.
O blooming branch,
you stand upright in your nobility,
as breaks the dawn on high:
Rejoice now and be glad,
and deign to free us, frail and weakened,
from the wicked habits of our age;
stretch forth your hand
to lift us up aright.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.







Commentary: Music and Rhetoric
by Beverly Lomer

D mode
Range: A below the final to D an octave above the final
Setting: primarily syllabic, soe neumatic elements and several short melismas

This is one of two pieces (the other being Laus Trinitati) that appear only in the earlier Dendermonde manuscript. Their omission from the expanded collection of the Riesenkodex may simply have been an error, or it may be that Hildegard grew dissatisfied with this piece and intentionally took it out of circulation.

The phrasing in O frondens virga is fairly straightforward. D is used to outline most phrases. Nunc gaude et letare is outlined by A, a secondary important tone. The next phrase, et nos debiles dignare, can be considered as a continuation of the previous idea, but it also continues and is completed by a mala consuetudine liberare, which begins on F on line 6 of the transcription. A tick barline has been inserted in the transcription to clarify. All three are probably too long to sing, so a break can be made at the end of line 4.

O frondens virga recalls the elemental association of the divine feminine with earthly fertility. Mary is addressed as “O blooming branch,” and she is described as standing in her nobility. The image of dawn and its radiance is also invoked. As in Cum erubuerint, Mary’s salvific actions take on a hint of independent agency: “deign to set us frail ones free” and “stretch out your hand to lift us up.” The musical rhetoric is not as powerful in this work. Melodic motives are shared on the words virga, sicut [aurora] and ad erigendum. The high registral pitch occurs on nobilitate, letare and manum. These linkages serve to highlight Mary’s key attributes and actions.

Further Resources for O frondens virga
  • Hildegard of Bingen, Symphonia, ed. Barbara Newman (Cornell Univ. Press, 1988 / 1998), pp. 120 and 274.
  • Lomer, Beverly R. “Rhetoric and the Creation of Feminist Consciousness in the Marian Songs of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).” Ph.D. diss., Florida Atlantic University, 2006.
  • Lomer, Beverly. Music, Rhetoric and the Sacred Feminine. Saarbrücken, Germany: Verlag Dr. Müller, 2009.
  • For a discography of this piece, see the comprehensive list by Pierre-F. Roberge: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) - A discography