Northern Perspectives on Music and Culture

Article excerpt


We are very pleased to present a selection of articles written by Finnish and Canadian scholars on subjects that examine cultural aspects of the composition, the performance, the reception and the interpretation of music. One common thread linking the authors is the fact that we all presented papers at the 7th Symposium for Music Research in Finland organized by the Suomen Musiikkitieteelinen Seura [Finnish Musicological Society] and the University of Turku from 15 to 17 May 2003. This project began innocuously enough as a motion adopted by the executive board of the Canadian University Music Society (CUMS) in 2001. The motion mandated Friedemann Sallis and Edward Jurkowski to explore the possibility of establishing a collaborative project with the Finnish Musicological Society. Contact was made with Tomi Mäkelä, who together with Sallis, worked out the idea of having a group of CUMS members present papers at the annual meeting of the Finnish Society and cobbled together a theme: Northern Perspectives of Music as a Vehicle for Cultural Transmission. A program committee was struck consisting of Edward Jurkowski, Jukka Louhivuori, Tomi Mäkelä and Anne SivuojaGunaratnam, and a call for papers was organised by CUMS. In the end, six CUMS-members presented papers at the Turku meeting.

Beyond the obvious value of academic exchange per se and notwithstanding the fact that numerous Finnish and Canadian scholars and artists have established long-standing, fruitful working relationships, this project was motivated on the Canadian side by the belief that our Society should more actively encourage and promote exchange projects with similar-sized societies outside of North America. At the time (2001-02), there was much ominous rumbling about the establishment of some kind of "fortress America." We felt we should be doing more to open up new avenues for dialogue and to actively seek out discussion partners, whose perspectives are different from our own. Despite obvious linguistic and cultural differences, Finland seemed a perfect fit. As well as latitude and some winter sports (particularly ice hockey), we share the experience of living next to large, often insensitive super-power neighbours. As independent nations, Finland and Canada are both relatively young; a point, which also underscores an important difference. Whereas Finland seized its independence from Russia in 1917 in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution, Canada has never completely broken its ties with its colonial past. Though it often appears anachronistic to others, the monarchy, the most obvious link with our colonial past, has been conspicuously maintained down to the present day. Both countries are officially bilingual. Swedish is an official language in Finland. Today it is spoken by 5.53% of the population. However at the beginning of the twentieth century, Swedish was the language of the cultured and the educated; for example Jean Sibelius's mother tongue was Swedish, though he also had a good command of Finnish. In both countries, a small, primarily urban population, located in the relatively clement south, holds sovereignty over vast expanses of northern territory. Due in part to the uneven distribution of population, the cultures of both countries are marked by strong regional identities, which are not necessarily well-known outside of their respective borders. Finally both countries have culturally distinct indigenous populations, which constitute a significant part of the population of their respective northern territories.

The Canadian University Music Society and Suomen Musiikkitieteelinen Seura are also about the same size and because they are both relatively small (at least when compared with mastodons like the AMS), they tend to be inclusive, large-tent organisations, encompassing historical musicology, music theory, popular music studies, ethnomusicology, music education, and performance. Where we lack critical mass in any specific field of study, we gain in our ability to organise discussion and orient debate across disciplinary boundaries. …