GEORGE BENJAMIN, COMPOSITEUR
What role for composers
in European identity?
It is poignant to be asked this question when my own nation is in
the process of cutting ties with the continent to which it has been,
and always will be, inextricably linked.
But although most Europeans rarely think about their composers,
especially while the brighter lights of sport, media and fashion
consume their attention, my suspicion is that the heritage of classical
music (for want of a better term) is a source of deep pride.
For Europeans have over the centuries produced, in all its transformations
and diversity, a music of astonishing dynamism, expressive depth
and sonorous beauty, a truly unique achievement in human history.
The Mayans and Assyrians excelled in architecture, the Nigerians
in sculpture, the Chinese in painting, calligraphy and ceramics
and the Persians in poetry. And of course the courts of India, Burma
and Japan have nurtured extraordinary musics, and yet no other civilization
has ever created anything akin to European music.
And this music has now spread across the globe and somehow, despite
all its controversies and aesthetic conflicts, the story continues.
Musicians, orchestras and opera houses still perform at an extraordinary
level of excellence, and there are probably more composers than
ever before. For me, a European citizen, despite the darkening clouds
which threaten to advance from many points across the horizon, the
mere fact that our civilization nurtured Mozart and Debussy is a
source of great wonder, intense gratitude and even pride.
George Benjamin, February 2019