Sunday, June 9, 2013

Forty-Part Motet, Janet Cardiff, Cleveland Museum of Art

I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) last week to hear Janet Cardiff's remarkable Forty-Part Motet, installed in the Reid Gallery among Italian Baroque masterpieces.

The motet is a 16th century choral piece written for forty voices by Thomas Tallis entitled Spem In Alium (In No Other Is My Hope). The fascinating thing about the work is that each of the forty voices was recorded separately and each single voice is assigned to one speaker only. The speakers are B&W model DM303 on stands, and are organized in a circular array around the gallery, in eight groups of five voices each (as was apparently intended by Tallis himself). You can stand in the center of the choir, or move around and get different perspectives, including experiencing the piece from any one singer's location.

It is a pretty piece of music, very ethereal. Heard in this unique presentation, it is moving. The concept is fascinating, and the idea of a forty-speaker system brings a whole new meaning to surround sound.

The piece has been touring the world since it's creation in 2000. If it comes your way, you really should go hear it. It will remain at CMA until July 7, 2013. If you're anywhere nearby, you must go. And make reservations for lunch at Provenance, CMA's new upscale restaurant. The food is art, too.

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