On Breath

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Kate Soper’s video “On Breath” weaves together historical theories about breath from various perspectives: philosophical (Pseudo-Aristotle’s “On Breath,” Galen’s “On the Uses of Breathing”), pedagogical (vocal treatises by Lili Lehmann, Manuel Garcia, and William Shakespeare), and metaphysical (Hildegard of Bingen’s “Book of Divine Works”).

Spoken text by Hildegard of Bingen, Galen, Manuel García, Lilli Lehmann, Pseudo Aristotle, William Shakespeare (the vocal pedagogue, not the playwright), and Kate Soper:

Sung text by Hildegard of Bingen from “Liber Divinorum Operum” (“Book of Divine Works”), with translation:

Ego summa et ignea vis quae omnes viventes scintillas accendi
(I am the supreme and fiery energy which all living sparks kindled)
Sed et ego ignea vita substantiae divinitatis.
(And I am the fiery life of the divine substance)
Et cum aereo vento quadam invisibili vita quae cuncta sustinet,
(And with the airy wind invisible life that all things sustains)
Vitaliter omnia suscito.
(vitally all things I quicken)

Sicut etiam spiramen animae corpus
(As the breath the soul of the body)
Firmando colligit ut non deficiat
(remakes and strengthens it so that it does not die)
Sic quoque fortiores venti sibi subjectos animant
(So the stronger winds their subjects animate)

Ego itaque vis ignea in his lateo,
(I therefore am the fiery energy in these things)
Ipsique de me flagrant
(in each of them I blaze)
Velut spiramen assidue hominem movet,
(As breath is the cause by which man moves)
Et ut in igne ventosa flamma est.
(And in a fire flickering flame is)

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