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“In this crazy world, art and research are the ultimate superpowers”, says DocMus Doctoral School head Anu Vehviläinen

In her opening words for the SibA Research Days 2022, Vehviläinen reflected the current status of the doctoral education at the Sibelius Academy.

Dear all, welcome to the Siba Research Days. I want to thank the whole organizing team, Uljas Pulkkis, Krishna Nagaraja, Lucy Abrams-Husso, Jaska Lukkarinen and Iryna Gorkun-Silén. Thank you for putting so much time and energy to make it possible for us to meet and enjoy this event.

The Siba research days has become an important meeting place for our whole community of research and doctoral education and is organized by the doctoral students. For the last two years we have been dealing with the most peculiar circumstances, the pandemic, which has forced us to find new ways to be in contact and express ourselves. I feel happy to meet you here face-to-face – and, as we are now very experienced in digital communication, I’m happy that we can also have people participating here online. Let’s have a good time during these two days.

Before going further, a few words about the current tragic political situation. We all must have been shaken about what has happened in Europe during the last couple of weeks. There is a war going on in Ukraine and we may feel helpless, confused and afraid, and at the same time we have compassion towards the people who are suffering the most.

I still hope that we can support each other within this community and to be optimistic and hopeful. Art and research help us to encounter the world and create new worlds. Art and research help us to see differently and to understand what we don’t know. Art and research encourage us to be critical not only towards others but most of all, towards ourselves. Art and research do not tear apart but construct. In this crazy world, art and research are the ultimate superpowers.

At the Siba doctoral education, a lot has been going on during the past few years. We have the new curriculum for both doctoral schools, as well as a new structure in the Arts Study Program which enables more flexibility in composing research projects and makes us more appealing to both national and international doctoral applicants. A doctoral degree doesn’t need to be a life’s work project, rather it can be a license to start an academic career. Now that we have been concentrating on developing the doctoral education – and we still continue doing that – we want to put effort on making the postdoctoral phase possible for much more people. Many of our graduated doctors have affiliated in the Uniarts and carried on their projects on many, many interesting topics. There are challenges in funding and continuity – especially now that pandemic has increased the number of people in need for funding. Certainly, there is a lot to do on that area but as it is said in the strategy of our university, we want the Uniarts Helsinki to be recognized as a dynamically evolving research community. My personal opinion is, that what is said in the strategy of the Uniarts on research, has had an effect inside the academy. More and more people have started to realize the meaning of research in our own university. We want our education in all levels to be research-based and we want to strengthen the cooperation between research units and other departments of the university.

Dynamically evolving research community is made especially by you, the doctoral students, our future researchers.

Then, there is also the area in doctoral education where we cooperate with the other two academies of our university. The original idea of establishing the Uniarts Helsinki was understandable: different art genres benefiting from each other and creating something unique together. There are many angles to look at this basic idea. For instance, we can discuss about what substance is naturally shared between all art genres and hence, what should be the study modules we, the three academies, offer together to all doctoral students. In near future, we will find more room for joint studies between Siba, Kuva and Teak. This discussion is going on lively and we hope that we will find the easiest and the most effortless way for the doctoral students to benefit from the broad supply of studies we have in our university. Certainly, art philosophy, basic research skills, ethics, writing – these all can be seen as general skills that can be taught together.

But there is also the opposite way to look at this issue. Sometimes the most unexpected coincidence affects the artistic work and research in a fruitful way. During the time when we need to count our resources carefully to make the teaching and studying in the doctoral schools efficient and productive, I hope that we always remember to leave some time and room for the unexpected and surprising. I hope that with our very tight schedules, we still find time to visit the art and research which feels distant and strange from our own familiar perspectives. Let us put ourselves into the situations where we are not at all prepared and seeking for immediate and apparent benefit. Let us be surprised. Even confused. Even angry. Every now and then, let’s try to be inefficient and non-productive.

Developing our cooperation with the theatre academy and the academy of fine arts, we are looking for the possibilities to put our research events together or create whole new ones. For this development work we are going to have a year off with the Siba research days. But certainly, we will come back.

The programme of this event looks many-sided and interesting. First of all, it is lovely to have the two keynote presenters, professors Jukkis Uotila and Jan Schacher with us. Warmly welcome to this event. Jukkis Uotila has been the key builder of the Finnish jazz music scene for many, many years, whereas professor of Music Technology Jan Schacher is one of the newest professors at the Uniarts.

Among the presentations, there are doctoral students from all three programmes, artistic, research, as well as applied studies. It has been fantastic to see the way research has developed within the Sibelius Academy in the past few decades. The doctoral projects and the expertise developed within them has an impact in the art world and the society in general. It is more and more natural choice for people working in different positions in the music world to begin doctoral studies, focus on a specific topic and create new knowledge and understanding. The community where many, many different music and research traditions collide is a platform for innovation and development. We are using the tested, traditional research methods and creating new ones if needed. We enlighten the areas that have not been researched enough before. We define the ethics within art and artistic research together. We go deep into our own artistic processes and articulate what we find essential and worth exploring. What we haven’t found yet is a topic that wouldn’t deserve studying.   

One of the most important and current topics in Uniarts is ethics in art and artistic research. The Uniarts ethical board supports our community in research ethical issues and develops the needed procedures. While traditional research ethics offer a solid foundation to art ethics, there are still several questions unanswered and even unquestioned. Just to give one example, on one hand we want to protect individual rights and on the other hand we might find this protection conflicting with the freedom of art making. These questions, the ethical ones, are never easy to discuss, let alone, solve. Since – understandably – ethical issues evoke emotions. It is much more difficult to disagree on correct or incorrect language than let’s say, the favorite kind of music. But it is good to remember that either discussion hardly will lead to an absolute solution. We have opinions not absolute and final answers – even in ethical issues. I think that the key to a community where everybody can feel invited and accepted is discussion, self-criticism, and most of all, listening. Listening is always better than hearing your own words. 

We have been living with the pandemic for two years without really knowing when or if it is going to end – ever. The stress levels have been high – – – And now there’s a war going on in Europe.

When the world seems to be in transition and the idea of normal is really escaping us, I believe that the strength comes from inside.

Crises hit us on the head with a baseball bat but also, crises may help us to leave out the unnecessary.

Crises may help us to see what is ultimately important to us.

And when something is really important, we are ready to fight for it.

Thank you.

Future doctors in music

We have approximately 150 doctoral students enrolled at the Sibelius Academy. This blog offers a view to their research projects.

The doctoral students are a part of a research community which is a unique combination of artistic activities, education, and research.

Their projects cover a wide spectrum of topics in the realm of music, combining musical practices and different research approaches.

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