Pessi Parviainen


Do We Have To Call Anything Music?
Töölönlahti: A Parable


Approaching musicianship as performance has been a tough nut to crack for scholars. Philip Auslander has called it a disciplinary dilemma: it is as if music refuses to be located in tangible action. Composer Mauricio Kagel wanted to make “music for all senses”, but it hasn’t been called that – instead, the terms “music theatre” or “instrumental theatre” have been used. The concept of music repels everything that is deemed extramusical. A holistic understanding of the musician is not possible. Why is that?

The problem lies in the concept of music itself. To investigate the issue, an unprecedented task was undertaken: writing a conceptual history of music. Within the scope of this dissertation, it is more an outline or a sketch than a thorough history; but even through this brief Begriffsgeschichte, the Hellenistic and dogmatic lineage of the concept of music comes to view, continuing even in its contemporary guises. An alternative mindset also becomes apparent: that of concrete concepts. Classical Jewish resistance to Hellenization suggests a profound difference in worldview, pointing to the possibility that Ancient Hebrew has different concepts that could be incompatible with the concept of music. This turns out to be the case: there is no “music” in Ancient Hebrew, yet there are several words for playing instruments and singing. All these are fundamentally different from “music”, in that they are concrete and practical, not religious, not myth-derived. On the other hand, they are not materialistic, because they lend themselves readily to parabolic thought.

Concrete concepts connect to each other readily, without the need for dogma. This has profound significance regarding the bringing together of artforms.

A dogmatic “unity”, such as in the Hellenist vision of Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, exacerbates the problems of reification. The structure becomes the more blind to reality the larger it is allowed to grow. This is an effect of placing music as the conceptual foundation.
Concrete concepts avoid this problem. This dissertation proposes that if Hellenist abstraction is dethroned, a practical, relational and ethical understanding of the functioning together of different forms of expression can be achieved, with the concrete concepts that are already in use. “Ecological Composition” is a proposed term for this.

So, to answer the question in the subtitle, do we have to call anything music? No, we don’t! And we will be surprised by the consequences when we cease to do so.

The artistic component of this research is a movie: “Töölönlahti: A Parable”. Töölönlahti, a central area in Helsinki, has a troubled history of rather hubristic total visions of urban planning, all of which have failed. In this landscape of failed Gesamtkunstwerks, the movie documents small scale artistic adaptations performed in the landscape. Thus the movie presents an audiovisual parable that juxtaposes idealism and pragmatic solutions.

The premiere is planned for late 2018 or early 2019.
Tutkimus ja julkaisut

"Paysage et Composition", teoksessa Paysages Variations: autour du paysage comme variation artistique, toim. Manola Antonioli, Vincent Jacques, Alain Milon. Pariisi: Editions Loco, 2015.

"Äänten suunnittelu ja musiikin käsite", teoksessa Ääneen ajateltua - kirjoituksia äänestä, esityksestä ja niiden kohtaamisesta, toim. Heidi Soidinsalo. Helsinki: Teatterikorkeakoulu, 2014.