Una Santa Oscura, a work of acoustic theatre for violinist

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Recorded at the Empty Space, Smock Alley, Dublin/IR, 2010.
Ian Wilson, music; Ioana Petcu-Colan, violin; Tom Creed, director; Stephen McCourt and John Greenwood, soundtrack.

          The main source of inspiration for Una Santa Oscura (“an obscure saint”) is Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th-century (1098-1179) German abbess, mystic and composer. The music is partly ritualistic and meditative in nature, structured to reflect a ‘cloistered’ day with its alternations of various rituals, prayers and recurring motives. Everything from what the violin soloist wears in the staged version of the piece to the sonic and visual props on stage and of course the actual music she performs, relates in some way to Hildegard’s life and context. Different ethnic styles of string instrument playing have also been absorbed into the writing, reflecting the possible Mediterranean and North African influences on music in Hildegard’s time. An element of conflict is also present, reflecting Hildegard’s contentious activities and ideas. A particularly important element in Hildegard’s life was her constant struggle to articulate her visions, a struggle which would often leave her physically ill; this persistent strife is a central theme in the work.

          An electronically-generated tape part plays almost continuously, and much of its basis is one of Hildegard’s compositions, Ave Maria, O auctrix vite [Hail Mary, O source of life]. Almost all the electronic sounds are sourced from Ioana Petcu-Colan playing and singing.