BY Anu Ahola
Numerous studies have indicated that culture acquires special significance in times of economic hardship. In Finland, too, public speeches and reports are quick to mention the importance of science and the arts. Yet in times of crisis, culture is most often one of the first items to suffer from cutbacks. Research in the humanities, music included, has thus found itself time and again having to justify its existence. And the same seems to apply at the moment, too.
The 2/2014 issue of the FMQ highlights some fascinating examples of the latest findings of Finnish music research. The most recent research projects are looking even further afield. The key word in many is transnationalism; hence the focus is no longer so much on Finnish music as on music in and connected with Finland. Studies of contemporary music are concentrating on such topics as politicism, environmental issues and the ‘others’ in our culture – women, children and animals. In shedding light on international relations, external influences and the tender spots in society, music research is contributing to a redefinition of the essence of ‘Finnish’ and Finnish culture.
The very latest research is also delving deeper, into human tissue and the bowels of the earth as much as into the structures of music itself. Pioneering research into musical aptitude is presenting not only information about the biology of music but also new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. Archaeological studies are providing a glimpse of the sonorous world of prehistoric times, about which nothing was previously known, and contemporary musical analysis is discovering more and more conformities in musical structures and developing models for analysis.
Research is able to tell us, in a way we can understand and grasp, about the mysterious language we call music. In doing so, it is opening up our minds and senses to aspects of music that would otherwise remain hidden. It is seeking to answer questions we did not even think to ask, and to rewrite musical history. It is constantly rethinking what music tells us about ourselves and our culture. And it is trying to explain why on earth music has always meant so much to mankind, both in prehistoric times and in the present year 2014.
Translation: Susan Sinisalo