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Blog » Brexit: A New View, A New Opportunity.

10 Jan  
  by  AndyR

I read Christian’s blog on the Brexit situation while sitting overlooking the deepest Canyon in Latin America, enjoying the sun and the warmth of a Costa Rican morning and thought ‘why are British composers in particular so glum and ridiculously insular in their support and backing for the crumbling, stagnating EU superstate?’ I found it strange because, for political, social, economic, cultural and, above all, musical reasons, I was and am a firm believer in leaving the EU. I know that I am considered by many to be wrong in my attitudes, but take a few minutes to assess why I voted to leave and why I consider the EU a constraining, autocratic dead horse that we should never have been attached to in the first place.

I re-read with even more interest Christian’s original blog that sounded-out the views of composers in the wake of the Brexit vote. These were predominantly in support of the EU and appeared surprised by the vote to leave. To use a very old adage: “Wake Up And Smell The Coffee!” What were they so surprised at? It was no surprise to me or many other people outside of the Home Counties who were totally sick to the back teeth of Europe: its meddling, unelected leaders dictating to us what we should and should not be doing when they have absolutely no idea about our nation. A prime example of this is the EU’s attempt to destroy the British Union by breaking Northern Ireland away from the rest of country. I am sure the Spanish would not be best pleased if we were to interfere in supporting Catalonia’s attempts at independence or to support a Flemish independence attempt to break up Belgium, so why is it such a surprise to London-centric based composers that many people felt the way they do towards the EU?

To quote from John Palmer’s entry in that original blog:

“But it is equally true that the current European Union is not a transparent and democratic institution. Who of us really wants to be ruled by two governments: a national one that is losing its sovereignty year after year and a super-government made by people in Brussels we don't know, who haven’t been elected by us, and who dictate to us what they decide? I have often experienced the structural heaviness and the corruption of the state-based culture that prevails on the Continent. I have come to terms with the fact that the majority of Continental people do not see this, simply because they do not know, they have never experienced, a different kind of democracy, one that is more liberal and based on the freedom of the individual. In this sense Britain remains, indeed, different to Continental Europe.”

I wholeheartedly agree with John Palmer in this assessment of what the EU is like. Dogmatic, undemocratic in a British sense of the term, autocratic (unelected bankers running the show) and one that is at odds with Britain’s ancient Anglo-Saxon and Celtic sense of fair play and liberal democracy.

As a composer my music has been played all over the world, and in particular Latin America and the German-speaking world. I am no isolationist or jingoistic nationalist. As a person I have two stepsons who have lived and worked in Europe (one still does), are married to German women and are very pro-Europe. I have very dear friends across Europe who find it hard to understand the British, so people find it a great surprise when I say I voted for Brexit when I have such close ties to the continent itself. It is nothing to do with the idea of Europe at all (that is a great ideal that I do support, just not politically) it is to do with individual freedoms and ideas that are being eroded by the interference by Europe in how we run our own country and our own affairs. We are not the same as the Bulgarians; Germans are not the same as the Greeks, so why must we all kowtow to unelected bureaucrats telling us that it is better that we act like the French, become more Polish and think like the Italians? Homogeneity stifles free thought, freedoms and unique creativity.

Not so long ago my youngest stepson pointed to the Symphony Hall in Birmingham on a visit back home and stated that if it hadn’t been for the £53 million given to us by the European Union then it would never have been built. Maybe, maybe not, but what of the other millions we have paid to Europe that we didn’t get back? Money that could have been used to build at least another three great halls, to finance our orchestras or to commission new works? Instead, this money has been sent to the EU to be wasted on wine lakes and cheese mountains while paying subsidies to Greek mountain goat farmers not to produce any more goats.

I am constantly struck by the dogmatic slogans of Remainers, who say that I am a racist, I am blinkered, or that I am narrow-minded for supporting the break from Europe. Well I am pleased to inform all these uninformed ideologues that I am none of the above. I love different cultures, have visited many nations in the world on my musical journeys and have written works using scales and rhythms that have had an impact upon me there. My Second Symphony uses the Byzantine Empire as its ‘raison d’être,’ employing Greek scales and Turkish makams at its core. I support culturally the divergences and differences found in the world, which all add to what makes it so interesting, Europe included—or what is left of the cultural differences in it, that is.

As for being narrow-minded of a Little England mentality, it is not I or the Leavers who are being narrow-minded but the Remainers, as they are blinkered into believing that the EU is the world, when in fact it is a tiny region in a much bigger, more diverse and more exciting world. Leavers voted for many reasons, but a hatred of the EU ideal was not one of them in most cases, nor a narrow-mindedness in the view of Europe or the world. Nor was it from a sense of a desire for isolationism. Far from it.

Many younger composers look at the few composers of my generation who voted to leave as traitors to their cause. They look accusingly as if we have just destroyed their hopes of a future, but if they were actually to stop hurling their left-wing rhetoric at us for one minute and listen to what we have to say they may actually begin to see there is a much bigger future out there than they would ever get with just the EU. They need to begin to see the bigger picture outside of Europe and the great opportunities it actually presents for the musical arts. Most Remainers appear terrified by this fabulous opportunity to see new horizons, preferring their own dogmatic belief that Europe is the only way forward when in fact it is a region that is unsympathetic to new music. Europe may have created most of the world’s great music of the past but that was as independent, uniquely cultural states, not as a homogenous, uninteresting, bland, faceless and bureaucratic union of similar states. Where are the brave new composers that were spawned before the EU truly came into existence, where are the new Boulez’s, Stockhausen’s, Messiaen’s, Ligeti’s, Lutoslawski’s, Maxwell-Davies’s, Berio’s? Nowhere and why? The answer is simple and quite obvious if you remove the blue flag and gold-star blindfold for just one minute. Everyone is scared of being an individual in case they are called an anti-European ideologue and so the music has become bland, dismally similar and uninteresting in most cases. In other words, in its striving to create a single monotonous, monochrome state, slavishly trying to emulate the USA, Europe has stifled its own originality and genius. There is a world out there begging for great, well-written, original music if we just look out over the parapet of the narrow-minded Eurocentric view.

We should be looking forward to a new beginning—most nations don’t get that opportunity—instead of hiding under the petticoats of the EU. If people cannot make the grade then I am sorry, you chose the wrong profession. I constantly read how depressing it all is for the Remain composers today… well get over it and see how it was for those of us who have had to put up with and suffer 45 years of constant degradation, sterility and erosion by Europe. Now it has changed, a new order is about to begin. So stop whining and accept the new future as we had to for all of those years. Accept it with grace, as we have had to do for those 45 years. This is a new dawn, so let us make the most of the opportunity we have to sell ourselves in the whole world, not just minnow-sized Europe. This is no step backwards but a great leap forward.

The only downside for me, as it is for everyone, is the fact that the current government seems totally incapable of negotiating a new and brighter future for the country, scared stiff to cut the apron strings, which is actually doing more damage to the country than if they were stronger in their decisions. Europe has not helped matters by being its usual dogmatic and blind self. I feel that no party in this country has the answer and Mrs. May has been dealt a bad hand in all this; in many ways it was not of her doing. But it still could have been handled better. It is not only damaging us, but Europe as well, and none of us voted for the failure which it seems we are now being offered.

As far as a second referendum…that is totally undemocratic. The vote was cast. Now it must be acted upon. Otherwise do we have a ‘best of three’ or continue until the vote goes the way desired by the Remainers? This could lead to civil unrest, if not worse. That would be totally European (see Ireland and Denmark’s rejections of, respectively, the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties) but totally un-British.

We all wait with bated breath in the hope something can be salvaged from the chaos that we have now created. Fingers crossed and let’s enjoy the ride!



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