Sunday, August 10, 2008

Music -- the other side of silence

In the old city hall in Stratford, we heard this:

It is a musical piece entitled, 'Spem in Alium', composed by Tallis, and sung by 40-member strong choir. Around this simple wooden hall was an installation created by Janet Cardiff that featured forty speakers set in a circle, one for each voice in the choir ... it is ten minutes long but you can hear the voices, forty of them, each one beautiful on its own, but collectively they weave a tapestry of light and music, a cathedral of sound, that seems to carry to the heavens, and for those ten minutes you can almost feel your feet lift off the ground. I don't think I will ever forget the smile on the woman's face across from me, the one wearing a flowered dress or the way the old man in shorts clasped his hands as though he were praying.... and then the silence that follows the music is somehow flawless, the silence that is the other side of music, its shadow. Shami once said that he thinks the greatest music is silence, and that the function of music is to teach you to listen to I felt I could hear silence.

Janet Cardiff said she wanted people to ‘climb inside’ the music, to connect with the separate voices. She wanted to examine the way sound could sculpt a space and the way the audience could choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.

The original Latin title translates as My hope has always and only been in You, God of Israel, an apt title somehow for it conveys the devotion and love in this music, the way you can stand in a humble hall for a few minutes on any given day, and for those few minutes glimpse heaven....

ps To see what the installation physically looked like when it was featured at the MoMA in New York, see the following link:

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