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Ruchill Linn

author of text

In the Scottish poet Robin Bell’s exquisite Ruchill linn (“linn” is a Scottish dialect word for “waterfall”, and here describes a location in the poet’s native Perthshire), by contrast to the Blake, the poem’s syntax does not coincide so tidily with its rhyme-scheme. Jackson treats the text as heightened prose, following its punctuation rather than line breaks, and yet the music again provides its own, subliminal yet ingenious structure. Although the listener is unlikely to notice this beyond the second line or so, every verbal “sentence” up to and including the pivotal two-word statement at the poem’s centre begins with the same three notes: E, F sharp and G. (In the second stanza the key changes—again to E flat major, as it happens—and the first two notes are flattened to E flat and F natural.) A more directly audible unity comes from two strongly pictorial elements—the curlew, with its distinctive downward glissandi, and the waterfall, a series of overlapping descents in multiple voices.

That central statement of “Ruchill Linn”—the invocation of the place by name serving as a sign under which the poet’s contemplation takes place—is set off from the prevailing (and for Jackson unusual) contrapuntal textures, in a sequence of chords filling out the whole registral space and framed by silence before and after, not unlike the way Tudor composers often set the words “Jesu Christe” in the Gloria section of their masses. Jackson says it wasn’t a conscious allusion in this case, but it’s nonetheless characteristic of his approach and aesthetic: while he rarely quotes directly from specific pieces by other composers, he thinks of all his work as, in the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s Stravinskian phrase, “music about music”. Even if it is subconscious here, it might also be heard as confirming a spiritual dimension to the work, one that fits and enhances its magical sense of place.

from notes by John Fallas © 2014


Jackson (G): Airplane Cantata & other choral works
SIGCD381Download only


Track 2 on SIGCD381 [9'10] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD381 track 2

Recording date
10 March 2014
Recording venue
Maida Vale Studio 2, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Michael Emery
Recording engineer
Paul Waton
Hyperion usage
  1. Jackson (G): Airplane Cantata & other choral works (SIGCD381)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: May 2014
    Download only
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