40 Ways of Listening to a Motet

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Janet Cardiff’s sound-sculpture, Forty-Part Motet, made much noise after winning the Millennium Prize back in 2000. Forty voices individually recorded and each played through its own speaker offers forty+ ways of experiencing Renaissance composer, Thomas Tallis’ Spem in Alium. It’s no wonder that national galleries and modern art museums jump at the chance to exhibit Cardiff’s work.


One of the best ways to experience the piece is at the Art Gallery of Ontario where it’s currently exhibited in the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre. Moore’s tectonic figures lend themselves well to Cardiff’s often forcefully moving soundscape. The forty speakers are themselves like slender-necked sculptures at home among Moore’s modernist forms — as if Cardiff gives Moore’s figures, too, their own incantatory voices.

Cardiff 1

You can hear a short sample here, but the work is worth a pilgrimage to the AGO before it is silenced again on August 18, 2013.

Cardiff 3

What do you think of sound as an art form?


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