2008 Student Research Conference:
21st Annual Student Research Conference

A Theory of Many Voices: A Study on the Origins of Thomas Tallis' Spem in alium
Nicole M. Robertson♦
Dr. Jay Bulen, Faculty Mentor

One of the most celebrated and mystifying choral pieces of all time is Thomas Tallis' 40-part motet Spem in alium. Several theories concerning its genesis have circulated for centuries, each relating the motet's highly unusual form to circumstances of its composition. These theories include: a commemoration of Queen Mary's 40th birthday in 1556; a commemoration of Queen Elizabeth's 40th birthday in 1573; a commissioned work for Duke Thomas Howard at the Palace of Nonsuch; a response to a 40-part motet written by Tallis' Italian contemporary, Alessandro Striggio. Emerging research indicates that Spem may actually have been influenced by a 40/60-part Mass written by Striggio, which was recently rediscovered in Paris after having been lost since 1726. The purpose of this study was to trace these theories to an original source and examine the motivation behind them, including the significance of the number 40, architectural elements of the Palace of Nonsuch, and compositional methods of Striggio vs. Tallis.

Keywords: Thomas Tallis, 40-part motet, Spem in alium, origin theories


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 40-1
Location: OP Performance Hall
Time: 1:15

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