Due to an unfortunate falling-out between me and the Internet Gods, I lost internet access in my apartment about two weeks ago. I now have to pay 2 euros an hour to use a computer at the local internet cafe, as there are no free wifi hotspots in Bingen and the library connection is excruciatingly slow and doesn’t let me post anything anywhere or check my email.
Sadly, this means blog posts will be few and probably far between for the next three weeks and won’t involve any pictures. It also means that I’ve essentially lost access to all of my secondary sources, meaning that I won’t be able to do nearly as much on my thesis as I wanted. 😦 Also, transcription has come screeching to a hault. I may have to print out some of the pages of the online Riesencodex.
Fun fact: German keyboards are really strange. For instance, Z is where Y is on English-language keyboards. Tzping is an adventure.
However, despite the lack of blog posts, VERY EXCITING THINGS ARE HAPPENING!
The past two weekends, I’ve gone to two medieval festivals – Spectaculum Worms and Spectaculum Oberwesel – and interviewed 7 performers/performance troupes that specialize in medieval music (with varying degrees of historical authenticity). In addition to having a rolicking good time, I’ve learned that medieval music is a HUGE deal in Germany, as are these medieval festivals. They don’t mess around. There’s no electricity allowed (exception: the main stage), after nightfall all the lighting comes from candles, torches, oil lamps, and other fire-based constructions, and part of your entrance fee pays for a small ceramic cup as disposable cups and other disposable foodwares are banned. They’ve also got a distinct advantage over American festivals in that there are actual castles and most of the inner town buildings have been preserved since the 16th century. The attendees are also really serious about their medieval experience; sure, there are varying levels of costumedness, but the percentage of historically-garbed people is incredibly high.
The highlight of Spectaculum Worms was definitely getting to see Corvus Corax perform live. As a historical musicologist, I really truly should not love them as much as I do…. but they are medieval rockstars and I’ve loved them since high school. They built all of their instruments (including beautiful, beautiful, beautiful 14th-16th century continental european bagpipes °drool°) by hand based on historical models and play music from historical sources, but they transpose this music into the modern context of a rock concert, complete with amps, effects, lighting, and eyeliner.
I mean… what’s not to love?
And just when I thought it couldn’t be any more epic, a torrential thunderstorm came through. SO MUCH EPICNESS.
A thought about authenticity: We simply cannot relate to medieval music in the same way people of the medieval era did. We have a completely different cultural context full of media overload and extreme volumes. Perhaps it is possible to be authentic to the original experience of the music – wild raucous party – by performing it in a way that evokes that experience for a modern audience with a modern cultural context, i.e. rock concert. We don’t know enough about medieval music to definitively say that secular medieval party music didn’t sound like Corvus Corax (except without the amplification), so perhaps in their presentation they are indeed being authentic to the spirit of the music and its time.
Or maybe I’m just trying to justify how awesome I think they are. That thought is still a work in progress.
The next weekend at Oberwesel, there was a woman performing and discussing Hildegard chants. I got to speak with her extensively afterwards, and we’ve came to remarkably similar interpretations of her music… and remarkably similar strategies for reaching those interpretations. It was pretty fantastic to carry on a (long) conversation with someone else doing this same vein of integrated research and performance. 🙂
Also, last week I went to the ruins of the Disibodenberg monastery, the place where Hildegard spent around the first 40 years of her monastic life. The ruins have been taken over by forest, giving the whole place a very mysterious and timeless feel. Sadly, I can’t upload any photos, so you’ll have to take my word for how magical it is. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many four-leafed clovers in my life. The entirety of the ruin-grounds was covered in them. A giant, three-trunked oak now grows just inside what was once the door of the main church building. I think Hildegard would (and probably does) approve.
The end of my hour is coming fast upon me, so I must leave off here. Ta!