Thomas Tallis: Numeric Secret of Name


The article deals with a practical embodiment of the aesthetic idea of the Russian philosopher A. F. Losev about music as “life of Numbers in Time”, by means of analysis of unique case of numerical symbols in Renaissance music used in motet Spem in alium of English composer Thomas Tallis. Gematria (numerical meaning) of his name influences the choice of compositional technique and is closely associated with different types of mensural notation. It’s been evaluated three mensural pairs, possible when reading the score: Tempus imperfectum — Prolatio minor, Modus imperfectus — Tempus imperfectum и Maximodus perfectus — Modus imperfectus. On the base of documents of the epoch and testimonies of contemporaries, the article briefly describes the history of creation of motet Spem in alium and musical sources of modern score. In addition to the specific only for this composition gematric numerical symbols, the “sacred” numerical symbols common to the style of that epoch are also considered. It is shown, how on this base, Thomas Tallis, as a true demiurge, created a unique sound microcosm, and how the numbers that make up the name of the musician support the architectonics of the work.

  1. Лосев А. Ф. Форма — Стиль — Выражение. М.: Мысль, 1995. 944 с.
  2. Милка А. Искусство фуги И. С. Баха. СПб: Композитор, 2009. 456 с.
  3. Baker M. Spem in alium. URL: (дата обращения: 12.08.2018).
  4. Cantiones, quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur (William Byrd/Thomas Tallis) URL: (дата обращения: 12.08.2018).
  5. Davis K.Motive and Spatialization in Thomas Tallis’ Spem in alium.” Kevin William Davis: [Personal Site]. Accessed August 8, 2018.
  6. Keyte H. [disc notes] // Tallis: Spem in alium Latin Church Music / Taverner Consort & Choir Parrott. EMI CDC 7 49555 2 (1989).
  7. Legge Ph. Notes // Tallis Th. Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui: a Motet for 40 Voices / ed. by Philip Legge. Choral Public Domain Library. 2004 (rev. 2008). URL: (дата обращения: 12.08.2018).
  8. Schwarm B. Spem in alium nunquam habui, motet by Tallis. URL: (дата обращения: 12.08.2018).
  9. Stockhausen K. Gruppenkomposition: Klavierstück I (Anleitung zum Hören) // К. Stockhausen. Texte zum elektronischen und instrumentalen Musik: in 10 Bde. Bd. I. Aufsätze 1952–1962 zur Theorie des Komponierens / hrsg. von D. Schnebel. Köln: M. DuMont Schauberg, 1988. S. 63–74.
  10. Whittaker W. G. An Adventure (Tallis’s 40-part Motet) // W. G. Whittaker. Collected Essays. London [a. o.]: Oxford University Press, 1940. P. 86–89.