Ordo Virtutum: Hildegard of Bingen (c.1151)

Hildegard_of_Bingen_Rupertsberg_Scivias_Fol_192r_III-9_Tower_of_the_Church_and_4_VirtuesHildegard of Bingen was, by any standard an extraordinary woman.  While most writers of the Middle Ages now languish in obscurity, she stands out as an author, painter, mystic, and composer.  The work highlighted today is known as Ordo Virtutum or The Play of Virtues.  It is the first musical drama in history and one of the earliest examples of a morality play.

As Terry Glaspey writes in  75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

Hildegard’s music is generally much more dramatic than the typical chant of her times, with soaring and leaping and swirling melodies, deeply expressive emotion, and a wide sonic range. It is characterized by both rich sensuousness and purity of sound, as though she were trying to bring heaven and earth together in her music. Melodic phrases are stretched and contracted to create the soaring arches of sound that typify her style and make most other contemporary chant seem mild-mannered and stately when set beside Hildegard’s richly expressive compositions. Hildegard’s musical expressiveness was also reflective of her personal style. She was a woman who loved beautiful clothing, fragrant scents, and shimmering gemstones. She would, on occasion, even allow the nuns under her care to dress themselves in more extravagant costumes than were normally allowed for cloistered women, or allow them to let their hair grow long and remain uncovered, sometimes even crowned with flowers.

Hildegard of Bingen was born in 1098 to noble parents at Bermersheim in the Rhineland, the youngest of ten children. As was common at the time, this tenth child was offered as a tithe to the church when she was eight years old and sent to the Benedictine monastery at Disibodenberg. Trained by the small community of nuns there, she joined the religious life and learned how to recite and sing the Latin Psalter. When the abbess died, Hildegard, who had already shown herself to be a natural leader, was chosen as her successor.

 

How did Hildegard’s circumstances shape her life?


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

 

D I G  D E E P E R


Ordo Virtutum, Hildegard of Bingen

Stranded in Time: How the Metaphysical and Physical are Necessarily Linked by Kate Thomsen Gremillion

Hildegard of Bingen. Mystical Writings. New York: Crossroad, 1993.
Hildegard von Bingen in Portrait: Ordo Virtutum. DVD. Directed by Michael Fields. Forked River, NJ: Kultur Video, 2008.
Jaoudi, Maria. Medieval and Renaissance Spirituality. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2010.
Sukowa, Barbara. Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen. DVD. Directed by Margarethe von Trotta. New York: Zeitgeist Video, 2011.

 

Terry Glaspey

 

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!

Terry

Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com

 

Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.

Beauty In The Common by Kate Thomsen Gremillion

The Weight Of Glory
C.S. Lewis

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”


Kate Thomsen Gremillion

This week’s feature is Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. The piece was written in 1942 for the Cincinnati Orchestra under Eugene Goossens. It was inspired by a speech made by then-Vice President Henry Wallace which talked about the dawning of the “Century of the Common Man.” It is worth noting that the use of “common” here is its original meaning – prevalent or frequently occurring – as opposed to the more pejorative meaning of unrefined.

In art, an image that immediately comes to mind is Jan Vermeer’s “Kitchen Maid.”

 

Nancy Pearcey in Saving Leonardo writes that “the Protestant doctrine of vocation insisted that any honest work can be a calling from God.” In this vision, the glory and splendor of a person is not found in the worldly status or value given to a vocation: in other words, God doesn’t see according to our pay grade or societal rank. There is worth to be discovered in the imago Dei  (the image of God), which means necessarily that the work we do, no matter how menial can be used for our sanctification and to draw us nearer to God.

“The paintings shine with a quiet intensity to convey the biblical concept that ordinary life is infused with spiritual dignity and significance.” ~Nancy Pearcey

Roughly two hundred years after Vermeer, a simple and uneducated nun would come to the same conclusion and reinforce the truth that what we do on even an hourly basis could be consecrated to Christ and therefore of inordinate value.

“Little things done out of love are those that charm the heart of Christ…on the contrary, the most brilliant deeds when done without love, are but nothingness.” ~Therese of Lisieux

The greatest temptation to which we regularly succumb is to forget our glory; our true glory. We are inundated with images and stories of temporary and shallow greatness from sports superstars, pop megastars, famous artists – all part of the earthly royalty. In the race to temporary prestige and power, we lose sight of our inherent worth. Let us remember that by vocation, those first chosen as disciples were mostly fishermen, with a tax-collector and a political activist thrown in for good measure.

 

If you would like a more developed version of the theme, Copland also used this as  the basis for the Finale of his Third Symphony.

 

 

Copland wrote your fanfare for you – next time you are engaged in common activities, put this on and take a moment to thank God for your life and to help you to re-orient your perspective to things eternal.

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Kate Thomsen Gremillion resides in Newport Beach, CA. After pursuing a music degree at Trinity University and Indiana University she currently studies at HBU in the Master of Arts in Apologetics program. She is a full time homeschooling mother of four, two of whom have graduated to college (Cornell and LMU). She is also a professional singer performing regularly with the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale. Kate gives regular recitals in Art Song and Opera and conducts the St Matthew’s Choristers at St Matthews Anglican Church in Newport Beach where they study Latin, Liturgy and Music. Her newest projects are the establishing of The Children’s Conservatory at St Matthew’s Montessori school and… as a contributing writer to Literary Life!

 

Philia and Patriotism by Kate Thomsen Gremillion

Kate Thomsen Gremillion

In Saint Petersburg in the 1860s a group of friends, the Могучая кучка (Moguchaya kuchka) which is roughly translated as “the Five” or “The Mighty Handful” met together for drink and discussion about Music and Philosophy not unlike The Inklings did with literature and poetry a generation later.

These Russian composers all lived in St Petersburg and most all had day jobs. They worked to establish a distinctly Russian sound. We could go into their unique musical ideas or their other philosophical concerns here, but I want to draw attention to perhaps their most famous member – Modest Mussorgsky. His music was quite popular with the people, but the critics hated it because it refused to follow the conventions of Western music of the time (think Verdi, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, et al). The funny thing is that was precisely his point. The Five wanted a distinctly Russian sound and resisted the pull to merely imitate Western European models.

The piece I have in mind today is his most well-known work, Pictures at an Exhibition. The real story here is the inspiration behind it. Mussorgsky was best friends with the artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann. They never got the opportunity to collaborate on, but Viktor’s sudden death from an aneurism at the young age of 39 sent Mussorgsky back into battle with life and reality and the darkness that had stalked him all his adult life. His weapon was alcohol, but his solace was composition, as opposed to what he thought of as the mindless civil service position he worked at to keep his head above water. So, for a short three weeks, there was clarity for Mussorgsky; clarity brought about by the deep love he had for his now deceased friend.

Vladimir Stasov, art critic and mentor to The Five, put together a memorial retrospective of Hartmann’s work. Mussorgsky even loaned a couple of paintings given to him by Hartmann to the event. After attending the memorial, Mussorgsky was inspired to write a piece as a tribute to his friend and his work. He wrote in the deep language of love, a tribute to their friendship. Originally written as a virtuoso piano piece, like most of Mussorgsky’s compositions it is known in a different form, as most of his works were either left unfinished or were “corrected” by his friends after his death who felt his idiosyncrasies as a composer were due to his lack of instruction and thus needed fixing.  Today the Ravel orchestration is the most popular version of Pictures, but I prefer the original piano version. In it, one can easily follow Mussorgsky’s thoughts as he was buoyed by inspiration.

Each piece is in response to a piece of art on display. It is as if Mussorgsky was carried away in conversation with his beloved friend. The utterly charming touch is the use of a tune he called Promenade to connect the pieces. In it you can imagine his steps to depict his travel between paintings. He wrote to Stasov about the piece “my physiognomy can be seen in the interludes.” What a delightful genius.

Let us begin and travel with Mussorgsky as he pays homage to his friendship with Hartmann.

You can listen here, in a poetic performance by gifted Russian pianist Sviatislov Richter:

 

Promenade (1st)

Stasov describes this as Mussorgsky “roving through the exhibition, now leisurely, now briskly in order to come close to a picture that had attracted his attention, and at times sadly, thinking of his departed friend.” He then approaches the first piece of art to be depicted:

 

No. 1 “The Gnome”

Stasov describes this as “a sketch depicting a little gnome, clumsily running with crooked legs.” Listen as the gnome scurries about. Unfortunately, the sketch, like several of the works on which these pieces are based, is lost.

 

Promenade (2nd)

Mussorgsky walks leisurely to the next piece to catch his eye:

 

No. 2 “The Old Castle”

This painting is also lost, but we can imagine a melancholy troubadour singing and strumming his lute as we walks the streets of a medieval castle.

 

Promenade (3rd)

Mussorgsky seems to walk more heavily here – and with a weighty purpose, perhaps as a contrast to the next painting he encounters:

 

No. 3 “Tuileries (Children’s Quarrel after Games)”

The Tuileries is a garden in Paris. Again the original painting is lost, but it is easy to imagine children playing and arguing, running past the full skirts of their attentive nannies on a glorious summer day

 

No. 4 “Cattle”

The lumbering of an ox-drawn cart as it travels down a country road.

 

Promenade (4th)

Notice how each appearance promenade theme sets a different mood.

 

No. 5 “Ballet of Unhatched Chicks”

Finally a picture! This movement is based on Hatmann’s costume design of chicks in their shells for a ballet performance:

[https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cf/Hartmann_Chicks_sketch_for_Trilby_ballet.jpg]

 

No. 6 “Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuÿle”

[https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e6/The_Rich_Jew.jpg]

[https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ee/The_Poor_Jew.jpg]

This is a description of “Two Jews: Rich and Poor” (Stasov) depicted in contrasting themes. The two portraits on which this movement is founded were given to Mussorgsky by Hartmann and loaned to the exhibition by the composer.

 

Promenade

This statement of the Promenade is almost identical to the opening.

 

No. 7 “Limoges. The Market (The Great News)”

Again, the painting is lost. The critic Stasov describes this as “French women quarrelling violently in the market.”  Mussorgsky originally included a dialogue in French for the two women,  but then thought better of it.

 

No. 8 “Catacombs (Roman Tomb)”

[https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/Hartmann_Paris_Catacombs.jpg]

Two gentlemen in top hats are led by a guide into the catacombs of Rome. The play of shadows against walls filled with ancient skulls and bones is chilling.

 

No. 9 “The Hut on Hen’s Legs (Baba Yaga)”

[https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Izbushka2.jpg]

 

This picture is actually a design for a mantle clock in the shape of a log cabin that sits on chicken legs after the legend of the dwelling of the evil witch Baba Yaga. Mussorgsky depicts her flying wildly about in her preferred means of travel – a mortar and pestle! The piece functions as a kind of scherzo that leads directly into the last movement:

 

No. 10 “The Bogatyr Gates (In the Capital in Kiev)”

[https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9b/Hartmann_–_Plan_for_a_City_Gate.jpg]

This piece is based on another design by Hartmann, this time for a proposed memorial to Tsar Alexander II that was never built. The massive celebratory nature of the structure (commemorating the Tsar’s escape from an assassination plot) is reflected in the massive chords and sounds that seem to transcend the wood and strings of a single piano.


Kate Thomsen Gremillion resides in Newport Beach, CA. After pursuing a music degree at Trinity University and Indiana University she currently studies at HBU in the Master of Arts in Apologetics program. She is a full time homeschooling mother of four, two of whom have graduated to college (Cornell and LMU). She is also a professional singer performing regularly with the Pacific Symphony and Pacific Chorale. Kate gives regular recitals in Art Song and Opera and conducts the St Matthew’s Choristers at St Matthews Anglican Church in Newport Beach where they study Latin, Liturgy and Music. Her newest projects are the establishing of The Children’s Conservatory at St Matthew’s Montessori school and… as a contributing writer to Literary Life!