Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Sure have been a lot of posts about "old school death metal" around here in the last week or so, haven't there? And don't you find it kind of weird that music written 20ish years ago can even be considered "old school"? After all, this blog has featured its share of music from the late 60's (thanks Sean) and early 70's (thanks Manslaughter), as well as a healthy portion of classical music (thanks Peter), lots of it dating back a century or so. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the OLDEST "old school" jams ever featured on IC were part of Peter's post about composer/murderer Carlo Gesualdo back in October. Gesualdo wrote his life's work around the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, just over 400 years back. Epic indeed, but I'm taking it waaayyyy back today. WAYYYYYY BACK.

Allow me to introduce you to Hildegard of Bingen, and also allow me to thank Camellia sinensis for introducing me to Hildegard lo these many years past. To keep things as bland and factual as possible, I will allow Wikipedia to have first say on Hildegard's life:

"Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (German: Hildegard von Bingen; Latin: Hildegardis Bingensis) (1098 – 17 September 1179), also known as Saint Hildegard or Sibyl of the Rhine, was a writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, German Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. Elected a magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136, she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama.
She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, poems, and the first surviving morality play, while supervising brilliant miniature Illuminations.

That's right, fuckers. Today I'm taking it back to the TWELFTH CENTURY. ALMOST 850 YEARS AGO. "OLD SCHOOL".

Hildegard tripping balls

From a young age, Hildegard experienced a multitude of "visions", which she came to interpret as communications from the Christian God. Her parents gave her up as a tithe to the local church, and before she was a teenager Hildegard was holed up with an old nun named Jutta. There are no written records of the next two and a half decades of her life.
When she came out of her seclusion with Jutta, Hildegard began transcribing her hallucinatory God visions, and became renowned quite quickly for her leadership and talent as a writer and songstress. Although often ill and quarrelling with (mostly male) heads of the church, Hildegard was unanimously elected the magistra of her local Sisterhood, and proceeded to create a vast and inspired body of work in music, literature, and illustration before her death in 1179.

Wikipedia again: "Attention in recent decades to women of the medieval Church has led to a great deal of popular interest in Hildegard, particularly her music. Between 70 and 80 compositions have survived, which is one of the largest repertoires among medieval composers. Hildegard left behind over 100 letters, 72 songs, seventy poems, and 9 books. One of her better known works, Ordo Virtutum ("Play of the Virtues"), is a morality play. It is unsure when some of Hildegard’s compositions were composed, though the Ordo Virtutum is thought to have been composed as early as 1151. The morality play consists of monophonic melodies for the Anima (human soul) and 16 Virtues. There is also one speaking part for the Devil. Scholars assert that the role of the Devil would have been played by Volmar (Hildegard's confessor and scribe), while Hildegard's nuns would have played the parts of Anima and the Virtues."

Check out this 1998 recording of Hildegard von Bingen's Ordo Virtutum, as interpreted by medieval revivalists SEQUENTIA. This is some haunting, ethereal shit, mostly monophonic but multi-dimensional in its moods and theme. Ordo was the first of Hildegard's two greatest musical works, the second being her Symphonia armoniae celestium revelationum (also worth seeking out). If you're into creepy shit like chanting priests and lonely voices ringing out in abandoned cathedrals, this epic album might be just your cup of tea. Weird, ambient jams, great stuff to fall asleep to (and I mean that as a definite compliment) and a creepy backstory to boot!
Old school?

Old school.



Whoa, apparently they made a movie about her her back in 2009 as well. "They" being "Germany". Check it:


Anonymous said...

Nile isn't old school.

Shelby Cobras said...

This is true, and thanks for noticing. Although to their credit, their first two releases came out 16 and 17 years ago...

Anonymous said...

Also check out Hildegard's slightly later French counterpart, Perotin. Audio (annoyingly split in two):


Less mystical and haunting than Hildegard, but much denser. These guys are able to fashion a hell of a lot of music out of a single syllable.