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Speech of Anu Lampela in international symposium of Gender and Musicianship in Northern, Eastern and North-Eastern Europe 12.2.2024

It has been a joy to be a part of a symposium on Gender and Musicianship.  The beginning a few years ago was exceptionally moving and encouraging. A lot of participants shared the need to get together and discuss about topics which felt important, but which had not received enough of space publicly, in the academic discourse.

Anu Lampela

It has been a joy to be a part of a symposium on Gender and Musicianship.  The beginning a few years ago was exceptionally moving and encouraging. A lot of participants shared the need to get together and discuss about topics which felt important, but which had not received enough of space publicly, in the academic discourse.

There is a lot of power in bringing forth our own questions and ponderings, sharing them in a research context and notice that the listeners are on the same page. They understand and support the chosen topics and themes and want to support developing those even further. The study on gender within music is here to stay, and the importance of this research can no longer be ignored. There is a lot of work to do, and we still have obstacles. But the peer-support is growing. Because of the research you all have made we have tools to fight those obstacles.  

The specific aspect of this symposium – Gender and musicianship in the Northern, Eastern and North-Eastern Europe – is highly important to us in Finland. The organizers of this event – the History Forum, doctoral schools DocMus and Mutri and the research association Suoni – have for years enjoyed of the many fruitful relations with the colleagues in the
Baltic Sea area, both on the institutional and personal level. During this event we will meet new faces and many old friends.

The research on gender and musicianship today is many-sided and rich. One part of that development is the way artistic research has evolved in recent years. We at the Uniarts feel grateful to our colleagues in the Baltic Sea area for the possibility to change ideas, to talk about methodology in artistic research, about the structures and different ways of organizing doctoral education – etc. The cooperation we have built with the North-Eastern Europe expands the community of doctoral students, artists, and researchers. Our dear colleagues abroad are closer to us than ever. One clear result of this cooperation and development is that artists have strongly enhanced their agency. They perceive and criticize questionable features within the tradition and suggest new solutions through praxis. In that way they are more courageous and increasingly better advocates for art in society.


Gender and musicianship symposium offers presentations which represent several genres – Western art music, folk music, rap music and so on. This is probably the most fruitful part of the event: to learn form a genre, that has many similarities but also quite different angles as well.

Research enables us to dig in deeper into the topics we cherish; through research we get more specific, we find new categories and smallest differences between entities. We create new methods and paradigms and by doing that we can articulate our own part of the large field of research areas in detail. Quite often that causes fear. When artistic research took its first steps in Finnish art institutions a few decades ago, many artist-researchers were being ignored and devalued – an experience which has been too familiar to the many-sided study on gender.  


Living as an artist and as a researcher is lighter and more joyful when we have peer-support and also, new perspectives. We need both people who totally gets us and, also people, that come from opposite directions and who don’t share our background. Sometimes those who come from outside of our bubbles pose the most interesting questions. They may criticize the very grounds of our praxes and question our way of seeing the world. These people may come from art and research, or they may be representatives of our audiences, the real world, the society.  

The Open Campus is a small unit which works in between the academies of the Uniarts Helsinki. We offer studies that are suitable not only for one art genre but for all Uniarts students and we keep the discussion going on between different parts of this institution. At the Open Campus we try to see what the things that unite us are. As we know, it sometimes happens in institutions, that if a person works on a floor three but you on the floor five, you may not even know the name of that person. It seems that there’s absolutely nothing that is shared. There might be competition of decreasing resources or some other issues that bother you daily. You may feel that the people on the other side of the university are making your life miserable, even if you don’t really know who they are and what they are doing. You may feel that while your own work is valuable, the others on the building seven are just wasting money. That is very common and human and happens to all of us.

Sometimes the division between two people happens exclusively by accident: these two academic staff members are the same age, they both do research on Sunday mornings, they hate November but love Eurovision Song Contest. Both have a child, who get a flu every other week. And because of all that, both have divorced two years ago. They could peer-support each other so much but they have been recruited in opposite sides of the institution. So, they never even meet.  

Sometimes the differences between music genres seem to be fundamental: in classical music one needs to earn the title ‘artist’ while in folk music a child is already seen as one. The social-psychological consequences of these approaches seem to be from different planets. Lyrics in Schubert’s Lied and in a rap verse may sound quite different as are the spaces which are meant to have a classical guitar recital or an urban sound installation.

Still, in the very core of all these genres, there is music that represents its time and offers a way to understand the society, its artists, and audiences. Music, that offers purpose, meaningfulness, and joy.

So, the point is to dig in deeper, to find the tiniest details in the topics we cherish but never build walls.


Finnish writers and experts in literature Lasse Koskela and Pasi Lankinen have pointed out that we tend to think of our own time as a unique period that has never existed before. In many respects this is true, but in other respects many of the phenomena of the postmodern era are familiar from history – Koskela and Lankinen (2010, 112) argue. So, people have probably always felt that the world is changing extremely fast. Maybe human beings in all historical eras have thought that the world’s problems go beyond understanding and it’s difficult to change direction.

Let’s be bold and courageous. Let us believe in the research topics that intuitively feel meaningful to us. And, if we really want to learn, let us listen. Listening is much more effective than talking.

Source: Koskela, Lasse & Lankinen, Pasi. 2010. Johtajakirja. [A Book on Leaders.] Helsinki: SKS.

Anu Lampela is Director of the Open Campus, University of the Arts Helsinki

Read more about symposium: https://www.uniarts.fi/tapahtumat/international-symposium-gender-and-musicianship-in-north-eastern-europe/

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