Head's Blog: Harmony, a theme worth exploring

Head's Blog

A surprising delight of my degree course came from discovering the inspirational female figures of the medieval age. During this period some women held positions of power and influence from the church, shaping the culture of their time. While the men were busy arguing or killing each other; these women made positive contributions in a plethora of areas. 

Hildegard Von Bingen’s serene and beautiful music makes her my favourite. Her ecstatic poems and songs are performed to this day. In her Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations she recalls 77 (possibly migraine induced) visions and, importantly for the history of music, expands melodic range further than ever before, includes intricate arrangements and foreshadows some elements of harmony, without ever quite stating them fully. It’s also extremely relaxing to listen to. 

This week have we have introduced Harmony as our theme for this year’s Royal High Festival of Ideas. In music, harmony refers to the combining of simultaneous musical notes to produce chord sequences to produce a sense of balance pleasing to the ear. At Royal High we spent this week exploring how this concept could be applied to the geo-political world which is in dire need of some harmony right now. 

Our Year 8 and 9 students learned a great deal about this from their mini–Model United Nations Project. The inspirational launch from Anna Osborne, a parent currently working for the UN in Kabul, allowed her to share the real-life contexts of her role as a peacekeeper for the United Nations security council and her experiences of helping to bring harmony around the world through her work. Each group took learned about human rights issues and, in taking on the role of different countries, learned not only how hard but also how important it is to create a global consensus. 

Junior Model UN June 2024 2

We will explore harmony further at lunchtimes during next week’s Speakers Week when we welcome inspirational speakers from our alumnae and the wider world to reflect on this theme across many intellectual spheres and global contexts. 

Harmony is a rich theme for us to engage with as a school community and can apply also to our approach to finding balance in our lives. Hildegard was not only a composer and mystic: she was also the founder and leader of two successful and economically independent monasteries; a writer of plays, poetry, and philosophy. Her pioneering scientific work formed the basis for the study of natural history in Germany, while her holistic medical studies helped to provide cures for numerous diseases. Hildegard was also the author of a cookbook recommending nutritional “foods of joy” and she even invented a new language! She may not have quite brought harmony to the musical world, but her example can still inspire us to follow our passions and to bring balance to our lives.