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Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet

The installation is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

Support for the project is provided in part by Sarah Peter and Rosamond Ivey.


The Forty Part Motet (excerpt)

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"Achingly beautiful"—New Yorker

"Transcendent"—New York Times

" . . . Is this art? Step into the space where those sounds are aimed and the answer is clear. Oh yes. Wow."—Soundcheck, WNYC


Janet Cardiff

The Forty Part Motet

September 10–December 8, 2013

Fuentidueña Chapel, The Cloisters

The Forty Part Motet (2001), a sound installation by Janet Cardiff (Canadian, born 1957), will be the first presentation of contemporary art at The Cloisters. Regarded as the artist's masterwork, and consisting 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 interlude, will continuously play an eleven-minute reworking of the forty-part motet Spem in alium numquam habui (1556?/1573?) 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 Forty Part Motet is most often presented in a neutral gallery setting, but in this case the setting is the Cloisters' Fuentidueña Chapel, which features the late twelfth-century apse from the church of San Martín at Fuentidueña, near Segovia, Spain, on permanent loan from the Spanish Government. Set within a churchlike gallery space, and with superb acoustics, it has for more than fifty years proved a fine venue for concerts of early music.

More about the Exhibition