Deconstructing polyphonic texture

Just revisited Janet Cardiff‘s website for  “THE FORTY PART MOTET | 2001”.

Even though I have not seen/heard this installation yet, I’m sure it must be awe-inspiring: a deconstruction of the polyphonic texture of Thomas Tallis’s Renaissance masterpiece Spem in Alium into its 40 individual voices.

The Forty Part Motet | MoMA, New York
The Forty Part Motet | MoMA, New York

I want to touch upon ‘The Forty Part Motet’ briefly , as its concept is related to the central concept of my current project ‘MULTIPLE voice/vision’ where I also envisage to deconstruct the polyphonic texture of music, but both aurally and visually. The first phase of ‘MULTIPLE voice/vision’ will centre around ‘Ein Musikalisches Opfer’ from Johann Sebastian Bach, which is a masterly demonstration of counterpoint.  ‘Ein Musikalisches Opfer’  was a musical gift – hence the titel – to Frederic the Great, King of Prussia. A gift consisting of contrapuntal elaborations on a musical theme devised by the king himself:

the Royal Theme
Ein Musikalisches Opfer - the Royal Theme | 1747

The first music sheet carries the inscription “Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta” – “At the Kings’s Command, the Song and the Remainder Resolved with Canonic Art” –  the initials of which form the word RICERCAR, the older word for the musical form ‘fugue’. And as ‘ricercar’ also means “to search for”, the word is already indicative of the intricate puzzles and textures that Bach has woven into ‘Ein Musikalisches Opfer’.

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