40 Part Part is a participatory sound installation that transforms familiar audio into a kaleidoscopic and immersive sonic experience. The artwork takes the form of forty speakers arranged in a large circle and pointed inward. The installation is silent until a library visitor connects via Bluetooth or plugs the provided cables into their electronic device. When that happens, Clayton’s system begins playing the visitor’s audio—albeit reorganized by a complex algorithm that shifts, mutates, and spatializes the incoming sounds.
40 Part Part riffs on Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet (2001), which used a forty-speaker setup to play a recording of Thomas Tallis’s 1573 religious composition “Spem in Alium” and is included in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Whereas that installation presents a fixed classical song, Clayton’s work opens up the power of this forty-speaker sound system to amplify the public’s input. In the artist’s words, “It is sound art where I don’t choose any sounds. […] It is silent until the audience makes an active selection.”
Jace Clayton, 40 Part Part, 2022, Commissioned by FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art and the New York Philharmonic.