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Total Immersion: Forty-Part Harmony at Gallery 308

November 23, 2015

If you are the sort of person known to shed a tear or two in the presence of an achingly beautiful four-part harmony, then the swelling harmonies of Thomas Tallis’s 16th-century Forty Part Motet will challenge your imagination.

The piece in all its luxurious drama is playing now at Fort Mason, in a unique presentation you will not hear anywhere else. You stand in the center of a 30’ diameter circle of voices, a 360° experience with each voice emanating from a single speaker, equidistant and at ear level. Such total aural immersion is a sensation you would not get from an auditorium, with a forty-voice chorale on stage, certainly not from a CD played through a few speakers.

It is this total immersion that makes this experience so memorable, “surround sound” at the highest level. Each voice is aimed directly at you, at once distinct and masterfully blended. The waves of music wash over you; your spirit lifted and then gently settled back again.

You are not likely to have another experience like this, unless you take advantage of the free performances again and again, as I intend to do until it closes in January. Let the first time be transcendent as you stand or sit in the center of this array, go a second time to study it intellectually.

The Forty Part Motet is a 40-part choral performance of English composer, Thomas Tallis’s 16th-century composition Spem in Alium, sung by the Salisbury Cathedral Choir. The performance is played in a 14-minute loop that includes 11 minutes of singing and 3 minutes of intermission. Installation designed and installed by Jane Cardiff, presented by Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

All performances are free, at the new Gallery 308 at Fort Mason.
Box Office
Through January 18, 2016.

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