in Columns

The Special Feature 2/2020 Editorial: Comfort symphonies and technique practice for the end of time

by Anu Ahola

What has music meant to you at times of crisis in your life? What piece of music gives you strength? What has it been like to play music during the coronavirus pandemic? We asked musicians to share their thoughts for this Special Feature. We also explored the importance of music at transition points in life from the perspective of music psychology and examined what statistics on music listening look like in these troubled times.

The responses we received for the Special Feature 2/2020 from musicians were fascinating, endearing and sometimes surprising. 

We learned that it is impossible to overestimate the importance of music. The idea of even a single day without any music at all is simply too crushing for most people.

Empowering music obviously knows no genre bounds. A piece of music that offers solace or joy can be found anywhere along the spectrum of musical styles, completely irrespective of the musical background of the listener. Moreover, the music does not necessarily need to mirror the listener’s emotional state – the mood of a piece of music may be diametrically opposed to the listener’s feelings yet fulfil its function excellently. Solace and peace may be found in the strangest and most surprising combinations.

Also, it is not always about what the music is that we play: for many, it is making music that is the main thing, focusing on what you are doing. As the world around is in turmoil, making music calms the mind and helps focus on everyday routines.

For all the diversity shown in the responses, one of the meanings of music clearly stands out: the communal dimension of music, its ability to bring people together. This meaning of music took on a whole new magnitude of importance when social distancing suddenly made it impossible to perform or experience music together.


It is a familiar phenomenon in music psychology that music gains enhanced importance at difficult times in a person’s life. Researcher Suvi Saarikallio, who is currently heading a research project funded by the Academy of Finland on music as emotional support for adolescents, discusses music as a psychological phenomenon in her column.

In addition to surveying the experiences of individuals, we wanted to look at the meaning of music through statistics: what kind of music have people been listening to and buying in Finland in spring 2020? The findings have another interesting story to tell about the importance of music in exceptional circumstances.


For myself, the most arresting moment in putting together this theme package was that when things are darkest of all, human beings – musicians or not – may simply turn their backs on music and wish for nothing but silence. Despite this - or perhaps because of this - we propose that as long as there is music, there is hope.

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi