Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet (2001)
The installation can be visited in the Druckereihalle, Ackermannshof (St. Johanns-Vorstadt 19/21, 4056 Basel) through 10 September from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm, and on Thursdays until 9 pm. The admission is free, no registration is necessary.
This major musical installation pioneered the use of separate audio tracks, recording the voices of the individual singers which were played back in unison. It developed out of one of the finest choral works of Renaissance polyphony, Thomas Tallis’s motet Spem in Alium (ca. 1570) scored for eight five-part choirs. The forty loudspeakers are arranged in an oval, each speaker an individual singer, simulating a virtual choir where the movement of the voices in space creates an almost physical, sculptural experience. Enabling the audience to pro-actively influence their auditory experience of this work presents an
opportunity that no concert hall would ever offer. By moving around within the space and so changing their proximity to the various speakers, the audience can choose to concentrate on one particular voice or to appreciate the composition as a whole. Thus they can immerse themselves in the sound and re-emerge from it with a sharpened sense of hearing.