in Columns

The Special Feature 1/2022 Editorial: The richly turbulent nexus of music and science

by Kare Eskola

A long time ago, I was attracted by the richness of music to study musicology at university. The breadth of the discipline was not a surprise – it was a given – but what did surprise me was the discovery of innumerable interfaces between music and science. Ploughing through a mountain of repertoire classes fostered my conception of what music is and at the same time underlined just thin our conception of repertoire is. Traditional harmony and counterpoint exercises trained my analytical ear yet somehow managed to uncover new and deeper structures at every turn, in fractal fashion.

Then we finally got to the meat of the matter, academic musicology: cultural, semiotic, post-colonialist and feminist music studies, reception studies, history and psychology of music, and so on. Subsequently, it emerged that all these could be linked to studies in the humanities, to brain research, to pedagogy... the list is endless.

And this is why I know that one special feature in one periodical can in no way give a comprehensive overview of the multitude of ways in which music and science interact, even when restricting the geographical domain to Finland. But even providing a snapshot is important in this day and age when personal opinion and gut feeling are increasingly regarded as being on a par with objective knowledge.


In this feature, we report on the Jean Sibelius Works project, where modern archival research is even now uncovering new facts about Finland’s most-researched composer, which will contribute to both the practical work of musicians and a more general understanding of human creativity.

We report on how the annoying repetitiveness of music playlists on the radio sparked a wide-ranging academic career, leading to a curious niche of musicology known as soundscape studies – which, for all its apparently esoteric nature, yields an understanding of the importance of sound in our everyday lives.

And as I remember how, as a young and arrogant musicologist, I used to be dismissive of musicians’ supposed lack of understanding about music, it is particularly gratifying that we report on the achievements of musician-oriented research at the Sibelius Academy.

Two columns illustrate just how richly turbulent the nexus of music and science can be. Eero Tarasti, the grand old man of Finnish musicology, preaches the gospel of broad-based musicology yet at the same time insists that one must simultaneously have a connection with music as a musician and with science as a scientist. Milla Tiainen brings up a third aspect in discussing the technologies and ecologies in the context of which human culture evolves but which, lamentably, have hitherto been ignored in the humanities.

Enjoy the read!

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi
Featured photo: Anu Jormalainen