Over to one of only three women composers I was educated about during my music university years:
Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Considering that she lived almost a millennium ago there ‘s a remarkable wealth of information about her surviving to our days! People have for centuries cared to keep her memory alive.
Hildegard was sent to a monastery as a child, a common education centre for girls in her days. She was educated in languages, music, sciences etc. A side-track reflection is that the reformation, by closing monasteries, also closed the one option girls had to a formal education and one of few options for women to have really prominent jobs. After the reformation, the education centres were only open for boys, putting an end to most women’s independence, involvement in and influence over society for centuries. And of course, from the medieval times we are spoiled with many extremely prominent women like queen Margaret of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Saint Bridget of Sweden etc.
Hildegard rose to the rank as abbess, moved the monastery to Bingen, became a central figure in society and was responsible for many successive women’s educations and careers.
She has left us one of the largest treasures we have from the middle ages, both in text and music. The music is notated for one melodic line, but thanks to her instructions we can also re-create the melisma, ornaments and according to special rules also parts for instruments. Contrasting to other music of the time, her music require a vast register and she often use big interval leaps – both means to bring together heaven and earth.
Around 70 songs/hymns have survived to this day, and excitingly also the earliest example of a musical drama that we know of: Ordo Virtutum.