enamors Hildegard von Bingen
by Jamie Allen
CCN Interactive Writer
Web posted on: Thursday, September 17, 1998 3:39:11 PM EDT
ATLANTA (CNN) Jocelyn Montgomery believes in the power of music. More directly, she feels the power of the music of Hildegard von Bingen, and on her new album "Lux Vivens" (Mammoth Records) she shares her experience with anyone willing to listen.
The album, produced by David Lynch of "Twin Peaks" fame, is a collection of 15 interpretations written by von Bingen, the 12th-century German abbess and early feminist.
"I think it would be silly not to share the music (of von Bingen) with as many people as I can," Montgomery says. "It's what I'm meant to do; it's what I know."
'It's physically incredible'
The idea that Montgomery is doing what she is meant to do is the result of pure chance, or perhaps fate. The singer grew up in London, but when she moved with her producer husband to California she was literally "discovered" walking through a canyon in Hollywood Hills, singing a piece by von Bingen.
"The acoustics in the canyon are amazing," she explains.
Within weeks she was working with Lynch on "Lux Vivens." The CD is enhanced for computer users, offering Web links, video and photos of the production of the songs.
For Montgomery, it's an honor to sing the pieces, which combine her celestial voice with a pastoral music-scape of sound.
"To sing it, it's physically incredible because it's so free form," she says. "I do feel in awe of the work. I just don't know anything that compares to it."
Von Bingen's spiritual existence
There's nothing to compare to the life of von Bingen, either.
Students of her work are celebrating her 900th birthday this year. Von Bingen lived from 1098-1179, and during her life developed her own visionary theology, established a convent, became a prolific writer in both song and print, as well as excelling as a scientist and herbalist while consulting with popes and kings.
Von Bingen's meditative songs are emblematic of a powerful life dedicated to spiritual existence. Montgomery's interpretations, through Lynch's guidance, remain true to their source.
"I have found that it settles really well in my voice," she says. "I just know that I don't have to try very hard to sing her music. It's really great to be able to sing in a way that allows you to relax, and if the singer enjoys it more the listener enjoys it more."
'An amazing energy rising out'
It's evident that Montgomery is enjoying her time in the spotlight. After spending a childhood receiving classical training in music, she bounced from project to project in her homeland, at times reaching inspiring heights in her work (she sang at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London), and other times sacrificing pride for a commitment to art (she spent a good deal of time busking on the streets of London).
Her break with Lynch is something that she takes in stride.
"We are very fortunate that he was interested to do it," she says of the von Bingen project. Montgomery is not familiar with Lynch's reputation as an artist with a eerie style, but she was impressed with his music production.
"It's amazing that he hears things that other people don't hear," Montgomery says. "I haven't met anybody else like him. I've met many musicians, but none with an ear like him."
Mammoth Records is considering a tour by Montgomery, something that would allow her to help others experience the power of von Bingen's work.
"I sing it in a way that it makes you feel that you could sing it according to what your ability was, and more people could experience it," she says. "The best thing about it is singing in groups because there's such an amazing energy rising out. It's such a brilliant thing."
You can order Jocelyn Montgomery with David Lynch, Lux Vivens (Living Light): The Music of Hildegard von Bingen on CD from mammoth records here.