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Forty-part motet

Imagine being immersed into the complexities of an Elizabethan vocal arrangement written for forty independent melodic lines, divided into eight choirs of five singers. The music shifts back and forth around the room like a tide, swelling up and subsiding into corners, echoing back and forth. It is beautiful, restful, and surrounds with its depth and layers.

Jane Cardiff's Forty-part motet is installed at the Power Plant, down at the Harbourfront Centre, until Monday. Winner of the first National Gallery in Ottawa's Millennium Award, this striking piece takes an excessively complex bit of music and makes it, as much as it's possible, accessible. Tallis' "Spem in alium" was written in honor of Elizabeth I's coronation.

Several of us went to see/hear it yesterday, since it closes on Monday and we were running out of time and opportunities to go see it. We sat and listened through several times. I was very glad I didn't have the vocal training which pittenweem does, since, as a consequence, she had more problems with the vocal performance than I did. I could sit back and let the beauty of the sound wash around me. I might try to go back before it closes - it's only $2 for students, $4 for adults.

It was a highlight in an all-social day. In a fit of efficiency, I put nearly every social things I'm doing this week into one day. In the morning, pittenweem and I met up to read together; a brief visit with snow_drifted, among other people, at my department, then lunch at Zyng with aerinah. Years ago, I heard lousy things about Zyng, so this was the first time I'd eaten there. The food was rather boring, although the concept and the noodles were sound. aerinah, who loves the place, blamed an inadequacy of sauce in my particular dish. Perhaps I'll go back and see if they can do better next time.

I went to the Queen Mother Café for dinner, a novelty for me, but with a lovely company of people I don't see nearly often enough: curtana, forthright, theengineer, double0hilly, C. and Charissa. I swear, I know tons of people who don't have LJs - this just happened to be a day particularly full of those who do. Most of us had respectable, if underflavored, pad thai. It was a day of inadequate sauces. Afterwards we saw Hero... but that deserves a post of its own at some other point.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2004 08:42 am (UTC)
I checked, and the etymology of 'motet' is a diminutive of French 'mot', so just 'a little word, a little thing', but is unrelated to 'motif' or 'motion'.
Sep. 2nd, 2004 08:48 am (UTC)
Thank you for your diligence in following up. If it just means a 'little word, a little thing', I wonder what its terminological antithesis would be? Or if musicians don't bother and go straight for words like 'symphony' and 'epic'.
Sep. 2nd, 2004 12:27 pm (UTC)
dissertate much? :-$
IMO musical forms tend more than literary forms to get re-formalized in the re-doing. Mozart's (three-movement, soloistic) "Exsultate Jubilate" is classed as a motet, as are more genuinely miniature sacred and secular works both of Palestrina, Marenzio, &al. As a baroque specialist in my misspent teen years, I was floored to discover what the Classical era had done with the terms "sonata" and "concerto." It can only have x number of movements? It has this particular form?

I'm going to be thinking about your "terminological antithesis" thing all day, however. In pure music it definitely exists; I'm just too concrete on these things. I'd simply have been inclined to say that "Spem in alium" is a motet on steroids, much as an opera is becomes a really big cantata, and much as Lydgate's Troy Book is an epic on steroids. I don't think analogies b/w late 15th/16th c music are bad either: they have similar structures and what I can only call a similar attention to prestige.
Too bad my faculties are really inadequate to thinking about this.

I swear, I know tons of people who don't have LJs

In my experience, that's just because you haven't found them yet ...
Sep. 2nd, 2004 08:44 am (UTC)
I think that's probably a fair assessment of Zyng. I've tried it twice but with completely different results. The right sauce-noodle combo seems to be the trick.
Sep. 2nd, 2004 08:47 am (UTC)
I had exactly what aerinah had, except for a different assortment of vegetables. Hers was undersauced too, of course, since they were made together. We had shanghai noodles, chicken, and garlic sesame sauce, I think. Do you have any particular favorite combos or sauces there?
Sep. 2nd, 2004 08:52 am (UTC)
The music sounds very nice, and I've been casting about for an excuse to give the Harbourfront Centre a look.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )