War and violence: the dark side of music

One hundred years ago Finland went through the trauma of Civil War. This FMQ Special Feature explores how the eternal theme of war and various forms of violence are reflected in music and on the music scene. How does war manifest itself in Finnish classical music? How does violence appear in our music industry and culture? Can we even recognise it for what it is?

Editorial: A farewell to discord

The first FMQ Special Feature of 2018, War and violence: the dark side of music, explores how war and violence are reflected in music.

This thematic package discusses how composers have addressed Finland’s wars in their music and also how wars and their aftermath have placed limitations on composers and their actions. A new series of articles by Tanja Tiekso explains the impact of US cultural diplomacy on Finnish music from the Cold War era up to the present day. We also showcase the most recent Finnish opera about war, Veljeni vartija (My Brother’s Keeper) by Olli Kortekangas, premiered on 16 February.

A column by Sini Mononen, with an accompanying playlist, addresses the issues of invisible violence and cultural history of harassment and asks: should music depict violence, and if so, how? Merja Hottinen reviews Sibafest 2018 that this year wished to celebrate 'the flip side of the Finnish Civil War' - civil peace. Selected articles from our archives discuss music in war films and music as a tool of propaganda and torture. 


Europe is now fortunately at peace, but many wars, though geographically remote, have had a direct impact on us through the people who have fled from conflicts to Europe and through their experiences. We should also remember that war is by no means the only manifestation of violence, nor even the most common one. Violence in its various forms – including sexual harassment – may be encountered by anyone at all in their everyday life, at home or at work, and the arts world is no exception, as the #MeToo campaign has starkly demonstrated.

The Finnish music industry is slowly embarking on a wider debate on harassment. In another significant initiative, a set of theses was published in January with the intent of actively promoting equality, non-discrimination and pluralism in Finnish music. At the time of this writing, 76 key organisations and companies in the sector have signed the theses and thereby committed to their goals. Apparently there is a will in the field to achieve change. The next step is to take action.


Art, and music in particular, has a proven track record as being an effective medium for processing injustices or horrors experienced. Hatred, defiance and bitterness can be converted into strengths, into the desire to understand, to forgive and to be forgiven. Ultimately, dealing with war traumas and committing to an equality and diversity plan are about the same thing: an effort to move forward, in peace.


 Anu Ahola

Music in illo tempore

by Antti HäyrynenPublished 14 Feb 2018

Talking of stalking

Columns by Sini MononenPublished 15 Feb 2018

Celebrating a civil peace

Reviews by Merja HottinenPublished 08 Feb 2018

Scores to settle

by Susanna VälimäkiPublished 01 Jun 2010

Patriotic soundtracks

by Kaarina KilpiöPublished 01 Apr 2015

Misusing music

Columns by Arttu TolonenPublished 26 Jun 2015

Featured photo: Olli Kortekangas's opera My Brother's Keeper. Photo: Petri Nuutinen.