Fifty Shades of Grey, E. L. James racy best-selling novel that has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, is turning readers on to an unlikely piece of music: Spem in Alium, by the English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis.
Tallis’s motet, featured in the first installment of the steamy "mommy porn" trilogy, has reached number seven on the British classical singles chart. The single-track download comes from a 2003 recording by the Tallis Scholars.
In addition, a hastily assembled digital compilation (“50 Shades of Classical Music”) featuring the motet has topped the U.S. iTunes classical music chart. The collection opens with another piece cited in the novel, the “Flower Duet” from Delibes’s Lakme.
Peter Phillips, the founder and director of the Tallis Scholars, said in a statement released by his record label, "I haven't read 50 Shades of Grey but I am most grateful to the author for introducing so many new listeners to the musical sensation that is Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium. Written during the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth it features 40 individual voices singing in Latin that combine to a thrilling climax for the words 'respice humilitatem nostram' (be mindful of our humiliation)."
In the scene involving the Tallis motet, the protagonist Christian Grey turns on his car stereo and proceeds to inform his love interest, Anastasia, about his "eclectic" taste in music — "everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon." Grey says the Tallis is "very esoteric, I know, but it's also magical."
Grey has quickly gained notoriety as a "naughty novel," leaving some women embarrassed to read their copy in public. Despite mixed critical reception, a film adaptation is in the works, to be produced by the team behind “The Social Network."