« HILDEGARD OF BINGEN: SYMPHONY OF THE HARMONY OF HEAVEN -Instruments: We do not know whether or not Hildegard used instruments to accompany chants at the monastery. We do know that she affirmed the use of instruments and considered them a means to soften the heart and direct it toward God. She gave certain instruments a special function and meaning. Tambourine – inspires discipline. The skin of the tambourine is spread tightly over the frame, like that of a fasting body. Flute – with its seductive and intimate sound reminds us of the breath of the Spirit. Trumpet – clear, strong, wakeful, like the voice of the prophets. Strings – correspond to the earthly condition of the soul as it struggles back to the light. The sounds of the strings stir up the emotions of our heart and lead us to repentance. Harp – instrument of heavenly blessedness. It brings back thoughts of our holy origins and helps us remember who we are and who we are called to be. Psaltery – a plucked instrument with strings stretched over a soundboard and played by one or two plectra. It represented the unity of heaven and earth since it was played both on the top and bottom strings. Organ – as an instrument capable of playing harmonies, it helps create community. HILDEGARD’S MUSICAL SIGNATURE Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, says that when we have the courage to be ourselves, we leave a mark in this world. When we let our unique gifts shine, we “sting” the world with our vision and challenge it with new ways of being. Hildegard left us her “sting” in a little motif she left behind in her chants. In her music, we find a melodic leap of a fifth followed by a leap of a fourth upwards. This motif is like a musical signature (see, for example, the opening of her chants, “De Spiritu Sancto” and “O Virtus Sapientiae”). When we hear it, we can remember our own gifts and talents. Inspired by her generosity, we can let them shine out onto the world.
Hildegard of Bingen, Spiritus Sanctus
January 10, 2013 by Shannan Suzzette Taylor