BY Juha Torvinen
Organised Finnish music research is celebrating its centenary this year. While scientific research in the field of music in Finland goes further back than that, the first notes by Professor Ilmari Krohn regarding the convening of the Musicological Society date from 1911.
The themed articles in this issue seek to provide an overview of the current state of musicological research in Finland. As a music scholar myself, I am all too aware that this overview must necessarily be incomplete: it is simply not possible to accommodate all the research orientations and to feature all of Finland’s prominent scholars.
However, our aim is not so much presentation as representation: what we are doing here is giving a glimpse of the huge range of variety in Finnish music research. Indeed, the challenge for music research in general is that there is an overwhelming number of musical genres and of ways of making, distributing and using music to choose from, and a great many suitable methodologies are available.
The positive spin on this is that research can adapt itself to the plurality of the music scene and can renew itself, engage in dialogue and constantly reappraise its approaches and methods. The negative spin is of course that this can lead to narrow pigeon-holing of research and personal specialities, which in turn will lead to music serving to uphold a specific world view and research approach rather than the other way around. It is all about ethics, and dogmatic ethics are a very bad thing: they allow for no deliberation about what is ‘right’ or what is ‘good’, and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are simply dictated. Anyone who thinks that he or she knows exactly what music it is proper to study and in what way has gone over to the dark side.
But is there any single object that all areas of music research could be said to share? In recent decades, the answer has tended to be ‘no’. We have need of meta-research in music research, a study of music research to tell us how music research and the musical reality around us meet – if indeed the twain ever meet.
For myself, ‘methods’ for such meta-research include picking up a Gibson ES-175 or listening to the music of Sebastian Fagerlund. But I would not dream of claiming that these are universally valid methods.