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Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet

Janet Cardiff’s acclaimed 2001 sound sculpture, The Forty Part Motet, will be presented at the Clark Art Institute June 8 – September 15, 2019. In this installation, forty separately-recorded choral parts are played through forty speakers in a reworking of Thomas Tallis’s sixteenth-century composition Spem in alium (Hope in any other).


The Forty Part Motet is played in a fourteen-minute loop that includes eleven minutes of singing and three minutes of intermission. Cardiff’s layering of voices creates a dramatic soundscape composed of individually recorded parts that are projected through speakers arranged inward in an oval formation. This arrangement allows visitors to circulate freely through the installation and around the speakers, moving in close to hear an individual singer’s voice—and even breath—or standing in the center to take in the polyphonic force of the whole.