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Selected Works

All Things Are Set Ablaze (2017)

On 25, Jan 2018 | In | By joel

All Things Are Set Ablaze (2017)

All Things Are Set Ablaze (text by Hildegard von Bingen, compiled by Joel Phillip Friedman and based upon translations by Nathaniel Campbell and Barbara Newman)

Instrumentation: soprano, soprano, & mezzo-soprano, plus hand percussion

Duration: 8:00

All Things Are Set Ablaze (soprano, soprano, & mezzo-soprano, plus hand percussion) was commissioned by Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek for her new ensemble ModernMedieval Trio of Voices (Martha Cluver & Eliza Bagg, sopranos; Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, mezzo-soprano) and is based on the writings of famed German abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath Hildegard von Bingen.

I am imagining my own made-up and modernized version of Hildegard von Bingen rising up and returning to warn us all: we have lost our way, are facing destruction, and we must listen to her now, or face the consequences as she warns … “all things are set ablaze… from me!” My invented Hildegard is a mixture of the real and prescient woman of many enormous talents and startling visions, Wagner’s Valkyrie warrior Brünnhilde, the Oracle of Delphi prophesying the future, and perhaps a bad-ass Wonder Woman. Most of the words I set are Hildegard’s own, in English translations by Medieval Latin scholars Nathaniel Campbell and Barbara Newman. Perhaps Hildegard’s writings initially had…a slightly different context, but it doesn’t take much to feel the potent currency of her words as we look at what is happening today. I have added some non-Hildegard text: short cautionary Latin fragments (“Monitum… Praedictum… Ignifer… Audi me”) as well as, fittingly, a single line from Wagner’s opera Die Walküre – the famous Valkyrie war cry (“Hojotoho! hojotoho! heiaha! Heiaha!”). If Hildegard were to return today I imagine she would like the spirit of these added words. Perhaps she’d join singing them as well!

I’d like to thank Nathaniel Campbell and Barbara Newman for allowing me to use and adapt their Hildegard translations, and for Nathaniel’s invaluable help wordsmithing the Latin portions.

World Premiere: ModernMedieval Trio of Voices on the Shenson Chamber Music Series, Gilan Tocco Corn, Artistic Director, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. on May 9, 2018.