BY Juha Torvinen
The north is one of the main facets of the cultural identities of countries such as Canada, Norway, and Finland. The north is a complex phenomenon with significant elements consisting of mythological beliefs and imagery, and it is continually referred to in discussions and negotiations about who we northerners are and how our countries and nations can be defined in relation to the rest of the world.
It goes without saying that music plays a central role in creating, sustaining, and redefining this multifarious phenomenon of the north as a dimension of northern collective identity. Indeed, the north relates to music in various ways. The Sami people in the northern parts of Scandinavia have their own musico-cultural tradition, and some contemporary Sami artists such as Wimme have gained international acclaim. World-famous Nordic heavy metal bands have extensively exploited Nordic mythology in their music and in building their image. Jazz music of the Nordic countries is said to have a certain “Nordic tone” (see FMQ 1/2009, Mika Kauhanen: “On the trail of the Nordic Tone”), and Finnish contemporary and classical music, for example, is also often experienced (and marketed) as having a certain intentional or non-intentional northern tone.
Most of the articles in the current issue discuss music and the north not so much by listing examples of musicians and music makers. Instead, we approach the subject by illuminating the northern mentality, the spiritual realm of thoughts, emotions, and moods that surround the music and musicians conveying northern qualities. As I try to show in my own article (“The tone of the north”), the north as a cultural phenomenon is a myth that cannot be categorised. Perhaps the north simply has to be heard, listened to, and experienced.