Joanna Hersey - ElevenTwelve

Joanna Hersey - ElevenTwelve

Joanna Ross Hersey performs an original piece she wrote in honor of Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval nun, composer, author, and theorist (1098-1179).

The work is centered around the convent where Hildegard lived and worked. She joined the convent as a young girl, traveling the seventeen miles from her home in the neighboring town of Bingen. When Hildegard arrived there, in the year 1112, she found a quiet and peaceful setting, the convent buildings in harmony with the surrounding forest and farmland.

Hildegard flourished under the creative atmosphere she found there, and after receiving her education, stayed into adulthood, and became Abbess in 1136, overseeing all operations of the thriving community of nuns. Hildegard went on to become a major political figure, author, and spiritual leader. She later left Disibodenberg to found two more convents and wrote scientific and medical treatises, as well as music for services at the convent, much of which has been preserved.

The performance of ElevenTwelve involves the player making choices between elements of melodic material placed within a map of the Disibodenberg convent. The performer can traverse the convent in any manner, and choose the musical elements found at each place along his or her journey through the community. The medieval convent at this time would have been a bustle of work and activity, with a large main church, smaller chapel areas for townspeople and visitors, dormitories, meeting and working spaces, and kitchens, bake houses, gardens, vineyards, a guest house, and hospital. Set in a patch of forest in the Glan and Nahe River valley, Disibodenberg is an area of excellent wine production, produced and used by nuns during religious services, with some vines dating back to Roman times. The production of wine continues there today.

ElevenTwelve is designed to be performed with or without electronic accompaniment, created by the performer, and with a performance time of four to six minutes. The soloist’s musical choices evoke an overall atmosphere of peace and serenity, through the use of flowing and meditative melodic lines. These melodies bring to mind Hildegard’s chant music, sung by the nuns during the worship at Disibodenberg, honoring their lives and work, worship, and community.

Learn more about Joanna Ross Hersey here.