The Voice of the Bard
, written in October 2007, demonstrates the power of what Jackson calls ‘abrupt editing’. The imperative command of William Blake’s text is announced initially by sopranos, altos and tenors in unison octaves, giving voice to an opening section that evokes the rhythmic exuberance of fourteenth-century Ars Nova polyphony and setting out motivic material that recurs in modified form throughout the piece. Blake’s poetic imagery is shot through with allusions to the ‘two contrary states of the human soul’, named in his 1794 anthology of Songs
as Innocence and Experience, the playful freedom of the former suppressed by the latter’s rules of conformity, emotional reserve and corruption. The Bard, whether Blake himself or his fictional alter ego, calls on the ‘lapsed soul’, the man or woman of experience, to reject the ‘Holy Word’ heard since the time of the Garden of Eden and take full command of a benighted world. Jackson’s setting articulates the contrasts and revels in the ambiguities of Blake’s symbolism: he leaves his audience to decide whether the Bard is a true visionary, the herald of transformational change, or the latest to join the snaking line of false prophets.
from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2013