Risto Pekka Pennanen

Risto Pekka Pennanen is interested in music taxation and licensing in Prague

"Phonographs, gramophones, and mechanical musical instruments did their bit to ensure that Austria-Hungarian musical culture was vivid. Something was being played somewhere almost all of the time. My research interests in Prague include music taxation in the 1894-1918 period, and the licensing of restaurants and musicians. Within these contexts I also study how the authorities controlled the music, the musicians, and the sound landscape," says the visiting researcher at the History Forum, Risto Pekka Pennanen PhD.

In Austria-Hungary, music that was played in private rooms and concert halls did not require official permission. Additionally, religious and military music was exempt from supervision. Pennanen's research focuses on street music, restaurant and café music, and cabaret performances.

Risto Pekka Pennanen’s research is funded by the Otto A Malm Donation Fund and the Kone Foundation. He started his research project in autumn 2018. This was preceded by a study of the regulation of music within the Austria-Hungarian empire, along with that of musicians and the sound landscape, specifically in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"I am fascinated by the authorities' meticulous attitude towards music, sound, and musicians. In addition, the archive documents tell of otherwise completely unknown musicians. The relationship between art and money has long been a sensitive topic of research. The regulatory control and taxation of the arts is always a topical issue in countries such as Russia, Turkey, and China."

"The Habsburg administration produced a large number of documents. Not everything has been fully catalogued and utilised. Archival materials require a level of familiarity when it comes to deciphering old handwriting, the ability to combine different document types, and mastery of the source-critical method, along with versatile language skills."

"I began researching the last decades of Prague in the Austrian-Hungarian period by digging into volumes of digitised newspapers. I have been on-site to study the meeting protocols employed the city’s government authority and its council. The next step is to read the materials generated by the Prague Police District in the Czech National Archives."

There used to be an entertainment tax in Finland that especially targeted dance music. In rural soirees, the vallesman (a rural police chief) could visit to check that the music programme contained no dance music.

Some interesting details in Risto Pekka Pennanen's research material includes taxes on music and entertainment which were planned to be implemented in Prague in 1913.

"The plan resulted in a wave of protests. The charges were justified by the need to tax “luxuries” such as music, dance, the theatre, and even racing. The tax plan also involved regulating the sound landscape, and the taxation of dance music was justified from a moral point of view. More broadly, the entertainment tax and taxes which were to be paid on instruments and gramophones were related to the need to balance the city’s budget."