in Columns

The Special Feature 4/2020 Editorial: Sustainability is the only way to the future

by Anu Ahola

As the year closes, we here at FMQ wish to raise certain issues that have become important, or increasingly important, in this extraordinary year. All of them ultimately lead to the same key question that is on the minds of everyone in the music community: how can we best secure the future of music after the present crisis? What are the things that we should focus on?

We start this Special Feature with a collage of images by photographer Maarit Kytöharju that crystallises the passage of the year in live music. We see the delightfully rich and diverse range of gigs early in the year giving way to the silence of lockdown and the renewed moments of joy that followed the easing of restrictions. Exploring the core of music-making, Amanda Kauranne writes about singing, which – as it turns out – is apparently an extremely dangerous thing to do.

And what should we turn to going forward? In May, we asked in an article whether we could learn from this crisis how to rebuild the music sector on an ecologically, economically, socially and culturally sustainable basis. Now, six months later, the answer is clear: yes, because we have no other alternative.

We have suffered a financial meltdown. Although in the early autumn it still looked like Finland would weather the second wave of the pandemic with a relatively low impact (see the article), at the end of November stricter restrictions again had to be put in place, effectively banning all performances of live music. According to the latest estimates, live music in Finland has sustained a decline in income of up to 75% due to the pandemic. The very existence of the music industry is under threat, and lockdown restrictions on public gatherings are perceived as deeply unfair among music professionals. In mid-December, music associations launched a social media campaign as an appeal for the livelihoods of the people and enterprises who work in the music sector and to remind the public at large that here in Finland we know how to organise festivals and music events safely. Kimmo Hakola discusses various aspects of the Finnish grants system and the cumulative financial impacts of the pandemic in his column.

A socially and culturally sustainable music sector embraces equality and the diversity and interchange of cultures. Creativity flourishes and musical traditions are kept alive. Public debate on equality and diversity in the music industry has continued and increased in volume in Finland this year. Among the few bright spots in this year were the world premieres of works by historical women composers and the powerful emergence of women in jazz.

Yet none of these aspects of social sustainability can be achieved if we cannot achieve ecological sustainability in music. There have been several recent initiatives in this respect in the Finnish music sector, and we will be returning to these in detail early next year.


But there have also been celebrations in 2020! Earlier in the autumn, we wrote about the 75th anniversary of the Society of Finnish Composers, in which context Pekka Hako discussed the changes that have occurred in the operating environment of composers over the decades. This year was also the 185th anniversary of the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. Lari Aaltonen discusses the significance of the legacy of the Kalevala and the importance of revitalising it for the modern era in his column.

And last but not least, the very first issue of the Finnish Music Quarterly was published 35 years ago. We celebrate our origins with a facsimile of that very first issue, the theme of which was the Kalevala (on its 150th anniversary) and its status in Finnish music.

Here at FMQ in the 2020s, we continue to offer our readers stories about music and how it relates to the world around us, thereby making a contribution to building a more equitable, less discriminatory and more sustainable world.

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi