Thomas Tallis, English composer of the sixteenth century, wrote “spem in alium nunquam habui”, a choral work for eight choirs of five voices, to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth I in1 575. The piece deals with transcendence and humility, both important issues to the Catholic composer during a time when the Catholic faith was suppressed by the sovereignty of England. It is famous for being one of the most complex pieces of choral polyphony ever composed. With individual microphones, Janet Cardiff has recorded each singer of the choir of Salisbury Cathedral, working with male voices for bass, baritone, and tenor as well as a child soprano. In the installation the artist replaces each voice with an audio speaker, which allows the visitor to listen to different voices and to experience different combinations and harmonies as they progress through the work. Janet Cardiff is at the forefront of a generation of artists who employ advanced technology. She works in a variety of media, including video, installation and recorded sound.


  • Title: Forty part motet
  • Creator Lifespan: 1957
  • Creator Nationality: Canadian
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Creator Birth Place: Brussels, Ontario, Canada
  • Date Created: 2001
  • Type: Sound installation
  • Rights: Inhotim Collection, Brazil, Pedro Motta
  • Medium: 40 track audio installation, 14’07” Sung by: Salisbury Cathedral Choir Recording and post-production: SoundMoves Sound editing: George Bures Miller and Steve Williams Producer: Theresa Bergne
  • Multimedia artist: Janet Cardiff

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