Making New Connections: Hildegard and..??

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to explore Hildegard of Bingen’s life and work with my research in this class. I thought this would be a pretty straightforward task that would follow my usual path of research: make a great Boolean search statement, find some articles, and put them in conversation with each other. My expectations were significantly wrong.

The first challenge I came across was that I actually am not sure how to talk about Hildegard’s music. I can write about her philosophies of music and discuss her use of female voices, but I actually do not have the tools to otherwise analyze her music in a way that’s useful to making a point. Because of this, I did not include any specific musical examples or even names of pieces in my first draft.

I also had quite a bit of difficulty just deciding on a topic. I hadn’t really considered how I would write about Hildegard; I just wanted to learn about her and I didn’t have a plan for how I would make it matter and connect that knowledge to other important topics. Thanks to the Holsinger reading on the syllabus, I decided to follow the idea of bodily experiences with music. I initially wanted to compare dance music to Hildegard’s thoughts on physicality of music, but I found virtually no connections that were sufficient for writing a paper.

Because I was having trouble finding a specific topic, it was very difficult to search for articles and books with which to do my research. I eventually found a section of thought and research that theologians were calling “body theology” and followed that concept. I remembered talking about spirituals and gospel music in World Music a few weeks ago and decided (without having seen any connecting research at this point) to connect the idea of a musical trance/being taken over by the spirit to Hildegard’s experience with music.

I don’t think I got very far with this approach in my first draft, but going forward, I’d like to find more information both about Hildegard’s thoughts on the musical body and about experiences and explanations of the trance. I’d also like to look more at the claim that women experience more bodily reactions to music (and to life in general) and relate that to the musical experiences I’m discussing.

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