The American Musicological Society (together with the Society for Music Theory) is holding its annual conference next week in Milwaukee, WI.  We are happy to note that the AMS President’s Endowed Plenary Lecture (Nov. 6) is a fascinating report on an interdisciplinary project.  The official abstract follows:

Hildegard’s Cosmos and Its Music:
Making a Digital Model for the Modern Planetarium
Margot Fassler (University of Notre Dame)

Introduced by AMS President Christopher Reynolds (University of California, Davis)

The work reported on in this talk is a collaborative effort involving forces performative, scholarly, and technological. Because of the way Hildegard describes her understanding of the cosmos in the treatise Scivias, the model unfolds in two acts.

The First Act allows for the events that occur before the universe as she depicts it was set in motion with all its epic struggles, and the Second Act places the Cosmic Egg in motion, with zoomable features. To do this work, the creators have transformed flat illuminations into moving, sounding three-dimensional images, following Hildegard’s instructions for how they work as faithfully as possible. It is as though a twelfth-century composer wrote a storyboard for us to follow, lacking the technology herself.

Margot Fassler


Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Music History and Liturgy