Janet Cardiff

The Forty Part Motet (A reworking of “Spem in Alium,” by Thomas Tallis 1556)


Forty-track sound recording, forty speakers
14 min.
Salisbury Cathedral Choir
Field Art Projects
George Bures Miller
Gift of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder in memory of Rolf Hoffmann
Object number
© 2018 Janet Cardiff. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York and Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin.
Media and Performance Art
This work is not on view.
Janet Cardiff has 2 works  online.
There are 413 installation works online.
There are 424 audio works online.

In The Forty Part Motet, the sublime glory that the divine has held in the imagination of believers for centuries is made palpable. Cardiff's installation is a reworking of a choral piece for forty male voices (bass, baritone, alto, tenor, and child soprano) by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis, which he likely composed to honor Queen Elizabeth I on her fortieth birthday

The audio component of The Forty Part Motet is a fourteen-minute loop: eleven minutes of singing and three minutes of intermission. The voices of forty singers performing Spem in Alium Nunquam habui were each recorded separately and are played back in the installation via forty individual loudspeakers on tripods. The speakers are arranged in a large circle, and 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 forty voices as they unify into one musical piece or move close to an individual loudspeaker for an intimate experience with a single voice.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 195

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA's collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

If you would like to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA, please contact Scala Archives (all geographic locations) at firenze@scalarchives.com.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA's archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.