A proud native of the Second City, producer Jenny Lawton joined Studio 360 in 2007. Since then, she's produced the show's American Icons specials on the Disney parks and I Love Lucy, lots of stories in the Aha Moments series, and a portrait of the Japanese tea ceremony from Kyoto. She also serves as the managing editor of studio360.org and coordinates the show's internship program. Jenny started recording interviews as a Watson Fellow in India and Spain, researching the origins of flamenco dance. She cut her teeth in journalism at Chicago Public Radio, where she filed stories on culture, politics, technology, and the environment for WBEZ as well as NPR's Morning Edition and PRI's The World, among other programs. Jenny was awarded a USC-Annenberg/NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, and lectures about radio and sound design at NYU and her alma mater, Kenyon College.
Join a Choir Without Singing a Note
Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - 02:27 PM
Recordings of choral music can be discouraging: soft and diffuse, like the music is coming through cotton balls, evaporating like fog. Even live performances can prove disappointing when lyrics are lost to the acoustics of a venue, and you experience a wash (rather than a wall) of sound. I think the best place to hear a choral performance is inside of one -- but then you have to work for your pleasure.
That’s what so fantastic about Janet Cardiff’s sound installation “The Forty-Part Motet,” now on view at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. The Canadian artist presents the wickedly complex work of 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis with brilliance and clarity.
Tallis wrote “Spem in Alium” (“I have hope in none other than Thee, O Lord”) for eight choirs of five singers, each singing a unique part – that’s 40 distinct vocal lines. Cardiff recorded the Salisbury Cathedral Choir singing the piece, putting each voice on a separate channel. For the installation, each voice gets its own speaker – arranged in a circle, you can wander between the voices, checking in with various singers, catching the interplay of melodies. Stand in the center and the voices combine into something truly transcendent.
You can really feel the changing shapes, colors, and textures of the music – qualities so rich and real you almost see them: “It reveals the piece of music as a changing construct,” Cardiff explains. “I am interested in how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space.”
You can get a taste of “Spem in Alium” (performed the traditional way) in this episode of BBC Radio 3's Discovering Music.