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Preceding this section is a setting of a 16thcentury poem about Icarus, which thus establishes the symbolic weight of the work’s theme—life and death are at stake here, and immortality is the potential reward—as well as the long history of man’s fantasies of flight. Throughout the work, Jackson alternates literary texts from various periods with documentary reports of the early history of flight (a newspaper report of the Wright brothers’ first flight, a telegram from one of the brothers, and accounts by other early pioneers Louis Blériot, who crossed the English Channel in an aircraft in 1909, and Amelia Earhart, who in 1932 became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic). The most telling juxtaposition comes in the sixth section, where an astonishingly clairvoyant prediction from the 19th-century British engineer Sir George Cayley is juxtaposed with the evidence of its realisation: a series of spoken announcements, as if by a newsreader, detailing further milestones in early aviation beyond the Wright brothers and Blériot. (A neat incidental touch here is the jazzy style-allusion in the pianola at the first occurrence of trans-Atlantic travel in 1927, as if Lindbergh had brought the jazz of the period across the ocean with him. Note, too, how Earhart’s lyrical description of her own experience of flying is given to the chorus as an insertion before Cayley’s final sentence, and how Jackson ensures that the “newsreel” mention of Earhart is timed to coincide, further cementing the connection between exposition and reflection.) A hushed final setting of lines by Hart Crane despatches us back into the realm of the imagination, and “the gleaming cantos of unvanquished space”.
from notes by John Fallas © 2014
|Jackson (G): Airplane Cantata & other choral works|
Joined by the world-renowned pianola player Rex Lawson, the BBC Singers perform the premiere recordings of works by British composer Gabriel Jackson. The central work of the programme—Airplane Cantata—explores the early days of aviation through th ...» More