This month, Clef Notes is taking a look at historical women composers. This week, we begin our discussion in the Middle Ages with Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), a German abbess and prophetess who also wrote religious texts, which were then set to music for the Mass and Office. Because people believed she was divinely inspired, she likely felt less prejudice for being a woman. That being said, her music’s use didn’t extend much outside her own community.
Today, let’s listen to Hildegard’s The Virtues (1151), a sacred music drama that was not attached to the liturgy. This morality play featured several figurative characters including Prophets, Virtues, Happy Soul, Unhappy Soul, and Penitent Soul. Each character has a singing role except the Devil, who cannot sing because he is separated from God. Below, you can listen to this beautiful, medieval work. Do you enjoy this type of music?