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News Room

High Museum of Art to Present “The Forty Part Motet” by Janet Cardiff

September 16, 2014

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ATLANTA, Sept. 16, 2014 – Sound artist Janet Cardiff’s critically acclaimed installation “The Forty Part Motet” will travel to the High Museum of Art in October. From the collection of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the piece will be on view at the High from Oct. 11 through Jan. 18, 2015.

Described as “achingly beautiful” (The New Yorker) and “transcendent” (The New York Times), Cardiff’s “The Forty Part Motet” is a reworking of a 40-part choral piece by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis (ca. 1505-1585).

The installation features the voices of 59 singers (adults and children) performing Tallis’ “Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui” (1556), which translates to “In No Other is My Hope” and is perhaps Tallis’ most famous composition. Each voice was recorded separately, and all voices are played back in unison for the final piece via 40 individual loudspeakers on tripods (one speaker for each choral part). The audio component is a 14-minute loop – 11 minutes of singing and three minutes of intermission.

Cardiff configures the speakers in a large oval, with eight groups of five speakers arranged together (one group each for soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass). As visitors wander among the speakers and progress through the work, they hear each distinct voice and also experience different combinations and harmonies. Visitors may also stand in the middle of the installation and hear all of the voices as they unify into one musical piece or move close to an individual loudspeaker for an intimate experience with a single voice.

“In Cardiff’s spellbinding work, music is a vehicle for the synthesis of time and place,” said Michael Rooks, Wieland Family curator of modern and contemporary art at the High. “It is about being present, connecting with the performers as they prepare, and then sharing in the transcendent experience of their voices in song.”

Most recently shown by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in The Cloisters’ Fuentidueña Chapel in New York City, the piece was created in 2001 by Cardiff, a renowned sound artist who has exhibited extensively around the world. Born in Canada in 1957, Cardiff lives in Berlin and works in collaboration with her husband and partner George Bures Miller. Her works are included in major public and private collections in the U.S. and abroad, and she represented Canada in the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001.

The Cardiff installation will be on view concurrently with “‘Make a Joyful Noise’: Renaissance Art and Music at Florence Cathedral,” an exhibition that explores the relationship between the visual and performing arts and features three marble panels from Italian sculptor Luca della Robbia’s famed organ loft. The organ in Luca’s loft accompanied chants and motets, much like the one that is featured in Cardiff’s piece.

“We are delighted our patrons will have the opportunity to experience Cardiff’s work, which has deeply touched audiences around the world,” said Michael E. Shapiro, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. director of the High. “Presenting this installation and having the chance to provide context for its mesmerizing music through other masterpiece works on view at the Museum is really a special opportunity for the High. It is the kind of enriching, multisensory experience we strive to create for our visitors.”

The installation will be located in the Modern and Contemporary Art galleries on the Skyway Level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion.

Exhibition Organization and Support
The Cardiff exhibition is part of the MoMA Series, a collaboration between The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

The exhibitions and programs of the MoMA Series are made possible by Presenting Sponsor Bank of America; Lead Sponsors: Portman, The Gary W. and Ruth M. Rollins Foundation, The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, Accenture, and Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.; and Planning Partner: The Rich Foundation. The Modern Masters Circle: Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot, Sarah and Jim Kennedy, Margaretta Taylor, Sue and John Wieland. Additional support provided by Sandra and Dan Baldwin, Carey and Doug Benham, Lucinda W. Bunnen, Mr. and Mrs. Holcombe T. Green, Jr., Paul Hagedorn, Jane and Clay Jackson, , Donald R. Keough, Michael Keough, Barbara and Sanford Orkin, Catherine N. Rawson, Sara and John Shlesinger, Joan Whitcomb, Atlanta Foundation, Massey Charitable Trust, Tull Charitable Foundation, UPS, Jane Smith Turner Foundation, Vasser Woolley Foundation, the Wish Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, AVYVE, Corporate Environments, and members of the High Museum Board of Directors. Support also provided by the Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, the Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Estate of Barbara Dunbar Stewart, Estate of Virginia Cook Wood, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.

The High Museum of Art
The High is the leading art museum in the Southeastern U.S. With more than 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American and decorative art; significant holdings of European paintings; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography, folk art and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists. For more information visit high.org.

The Woodruff Arts Center
The Woodruff Arts Center is one of the largest arts centers in the world, home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art and Arts for Learning. Each year, these arts organizations play host to over 1.2 million patrons at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Midtown Atlanta location, one of the only arts centers in the U.S. to host both visual and performing arts on a single campus. Through its work with educators and schools, the Woodruff Arts Center serves over 300,000 students annually and is the largest arts educator in Georgia.

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Media contact:

Marci Tate
High Museum of Art
Tel: 404-733-4585| E-mail: marci.tate@woodruffcenter.org