Janet Cardiff’s sound installation The Forty Part Motet, currently on view at the Cloisters in New York City through December 8th, is a rarity—a revelatory work of art that can inspire busy museum-goers to stop, listen deeply, and even bring them to tears.
I sat through five cycles of the work myself this week, and I was far from the only visitor who spent more than an hour in the Cloisters’ Fuentidueña Chapel enjoying repeated listenings of Cardiff’s brilliant piece. A number of listeners wiped away tears, and many smiled to friends, strangers, or themselves. For the entire hour during the exhibit, and the hour following, I was too stunned and overwhelmed to speak.
Honestly, these were the kinds of reactions I had expected to see at James Turrell’s show at the Guggenheim this summer, but instead, I had to travel over 100 blocks uptown to find true revelation.