Marja-Leena Rathje
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Finnish music

Many heart-felt thanks to everyone for all the blogoversary congratulations! Extra special thank yous to Anna for the delightful little poem she wrote for the occasion, and to Charles Downey who wrote: "There's a little post on Finnish music for you at Ionarts (really just leading you to Alex Ross' blog)."

Charles' post and Alex Ross' article do please my Finnish blood! This ties in closely to my recent post on 'does music affect behaviour?' and the large emphasis on arts education in Finnish schools.

Ross also has an interesting quote by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara:

"When, as a very young man, I decided I was going to be a composer, it was not because I was so passionately in love with music. No, but I had found the world and life difficult, as a child and a youngster. I wanted to escape from them. I happened to read some biographers of composers and what Richard Strauss had written: that a composer could create a world of beauty of his own, for himself alone a kingdom of which he was the sole ruler. This was precisely what my own escapism needed, a world of my own I could build for myself, where no one could criticize me, there were none of the I-know-better brigade I so feared."

I was also astounded to learn just recently that Ondine, a major classical music label, is a Finnish recording company, celebrating their 20th anniversary this year! (There's news at Ondine about Rautavaara.)

UPDATE Feb.4.05: Charles Downey certainly has led me down an interesting path of following the continuing discussion on Finnish music. I am not an expert on Finnish music or any music, so I'm learning a lot from these writers, and look forward to more promised by Alex Ross who has updated his post with this (and he's having great fun with the umlauts!):

"Lisa Hirsch offers hër öwn thöüghts, emphasizing the incredible Finnish music-education system. Indeed, as I'll say in my column next week, it's probably the best in the world."

Hirsch has done her research and found some excellent links on the subject. One correction I'd humbly like to make is that the population of Finland is not 10 million, but just over 5.2 million in 2003!

As I've mentioned before, Virtual Finland is my favourite and perhaps the best portal to almost everything about Finland. There's a long page on Finnish music education. It mentions how history and the character of the people are an important foundation behind the decisions and the success of the music (and other arts, I add) education programs:

"The results of Finnish music education have recently been attracting a great deal of attention, both at home and abroad.

In comparative situations, for example at the conferences of the International Society of Music Education (ISME), the Finnish system is recognized with surprise and admiration. Finnish children's and youth choirs are becoming famous, and new international talents - conductors as well as singers and instrumentalists - are frequently stepping into the limelight.

But is this picture complete? Is there just a narrow elite with an international reputation or is there more to it - is the whole Finnish system of musical education exemplary? There are obvious reasons why so many high-standard achievements are possible, but there is also another side to the coin.

Finns, although quiet and reserved by nature, have a need to express themselves and their feelings through singing, acting, making pictures or other handicraft products. Unlike many old Central-European cultures Finnish people still have an unbroken bond with their own age-old culture where man has been a participating factor, a "subject". An excellent proof of this is the uninterrupted popularity of folk music, which is in a constant state of creativity and renewal.

Thanks to the leaders of the 19th-century national awakening, we are not ashamed of our musical heritage; on the contrary, not only contemporary music but other branches of culture also draw strength from it. When Pekka Halonen, painter and Jean Sibelius's contemporary, went to Paris to study, he took a kantele with him, and he would play it to sooth his nerves in the babel of the metropolis."

Marja-Leena | 03/02/2005
themes: Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric, Music