September 21, 2003

The bizarre world of Conservatism

On the trail of that bizarre case involving Mike Batt (composer of the Wombles signature tune) and Peters Edition, in which Peters demanded a quarter of Batt's royalties for a track of one minute's silence, because - in attributing it to Batt/Cage - he had infringed Cage's copyright in 4'33" (it was settled out of court when Batt paid a six-figure sum to Peters), I discovered something even more bizarre.

Batt happens also to have written Heartlands, the theme tune to the Conservatives' 2001 election campaign. OK, that's nothing strange - who cares as long as he got paid?

But what is weird is the puff about the track on the Conservatives' website (Bond man composes Conservative theme), which claims that the music "aims to embody the core values and basic principles of the Conservative Party". Batt himself says "I wanted the music to have gravitas, to be orchestral but also modern, to have compassion and warmth of spirit, but at the same time, strength of purpose.'

I'm a great admirer of Philip Tagg's work and thought, in particular his analyses of library music, and why people use the music they do and for what purpose. But if you aren't, and you find Tagg's perspective all a bit leftish and anti-establishment, think again - here is the Conservative Party of all people telling you that Tagg is absolutely right. Not only can music be used to manipulate you to vote, it can even communicate a political agenda. The track in question is here - I presume this is the more "dynamic variation for use on the campaign trail". Altogether, not a wise move on the part of the Conservatives, since if you work backwards - and use a musicological analysis to try and understand what 'the core values and principles' of Conservatism might be, you could start claiming all kinds of things for Conservatism which I am sure they neither intended nor would wish to publicize if they did.

Posted by Jonathan at September 21, 2003 03:00 PM
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