The Forty Part Motet by Janet Cardiff
October 11, 2014–February 15, 2015
Described as “achingly beautiful” (The New Yorker) and “transcendent” (The New York Times), sound artist Janet Cardiff’s critically acclaimed installation The Forty Part Motet traveled to the High in fall 2014. From the collection of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet is a mesmerizing 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 via 40 individual loudspeakers on tripods (one speaker for each choral part). The audio component features 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 them and progress through the work, they hear each distinct voice and also experience different combinations and harmonies. A visitor can 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.
This exhibition was 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 were 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.