The Canadian artist Janet Cardiff (1957) presents at The Metropolitan Museum of Art the exhibition The Forty Part Motet (2001), a sound installation that will be the first presentation of contemporary art at The Cloisters.
“The Forty Part Motet” is most often presented in a neutral gallery setting, but in this case the setting is churchlike gallery space, with superb acoustics, with more than fifty years of proved experience as a fine venue for concerts of early music: The Fuentidueña Chapel. The Chapel is formed by more than three thousand limestone blocks, lent to The Cloisters by the Spanish government in 1957. The limestone blocks constitute the twelfth-century apse from the church of San Martín at Fuentidueña, near Segovia, Spain.
Regarded as Janet Cardiff the artist’s masterwork, “The Forty Part Motet” (2001) consists of forty high-fidelity speakers positioned on stands in a large oval configuration throughout the Fuentidueña Chapel, the fourteen-minute work, with a three-minute spoken prologue, will continuously play an eleven-minute reworking of the forty-part motet “Spem in alium numquam habui” by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis (ca. 1505–1585).
“Spem in alium”, which translates as “In No Other Is My Hope,” is perhaps Tallis’s most famous composition. Visitors are encouraged to walk among the loudspeakers and hear the individual unaccompanied voices—bass, baritone, alto, tenor, and child soprano—one part per speaker—as well as the polyphonic choral effect of the combined singers in an immersive experience.
The installation is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.