CT::SWaM Community

Janet Cardiff's 40 Part Motet

I would like to start a topic about Janet Cardiff’s 40 Part Motet one of the most widely known spatial sound installations. Has anyone experienced this work? Where was it installed?

I experienced this work at the Cloisters as wells as at MoMA PS1. I found that the work resonated meaning in very different ways in each space.

1 Like

I caught it at the Cloisters, and it was wonderful. Beyond sounding great in the room, to me it made a great point of getting away from sweet spot listening and of there being one specific way in which something should be heard, and of speakers ideally being an invisible mechanism for sound distribution.

I think one of the themes (issues?) to be contended with in multi-channel setups is the notion of the creation of an illusory space that requires a - typically singular - listener - you - to be in the middle of it all in order to experience the totality of space created. It can end up taking the physical space out of the equation of listening, which while for architectural simulations of proposed acoustic reactions in space makes sense, is otherwise ironic.

So the ability to chart a path, and to spend time with specific singers/speakers in any way desired, and to be able to step in and out of the whole of the sound was a great take on this. Especially as when stepping into the whole, my ear was more attuned to the nuance of the specific source I was taking a step back from, and thus from the lack of balance of the whole of the sound in the space.

1 Like

Here is a video where she explains her inspiration and interpretation of the piece: