Finnish belongs to the Finno-Ugric family of languages; the most important linguistic minorities in Finland are the Swedish-speaking population along the coast and the Lapps in the far north. Whereas south-west Finland had close ties with the West, particularly Sweden, the eastern part of the Finnish-Karelian culture-area was orientated towards the south and Novgorod, whence they also came into contact with Byzantium. This dichotomy between western and eastern Finland is clearly evident in the ethnological traits of later periods. Another firmly established boundary is that separating the Lutheran and Orthodox areas (fig.2).
The Finnish cultural tradition can be divided into periods according to stylistic traits: pre-Finnish, which antedates poetry in the Kalevalaic metre and includes shamanic songs, animal and calendar rituals, creation myths etc.; early Kalevala (before 150–500 ce); vital Kalevala (before the crusades to Finland by the Swedes, first crusade 1155); medieval Kalevala (pre-Reformation, i.e. before 1523); late Kalevala; the society of social classes (the period before the advent of industrialization, marked by the spread of rhymed folksongs and literacy and ending about 1870–80); and urban, or industrial mass culture.
Differing social and historical circumstances have given rise to great cultural differences within the Finnish-Karelian area; in the late 19th century, before the advent of urban culture, the various counties or provinces had distinct cultural characteristics. South Pohjanmaa, having a homogeneous social background, was an area more conducive to integrated development, and here several ideological and popular group movements sprang up that influenced the whole country. This area, being agrarian with a comparatively stable population, had impressive instrumental wedding music and rhymed rekilaulu and polskalaulu. The cohesiveness of the young people was a significant factor in the creation of fighting and derisive songs which served to increase solidarity. Although the Karelian isthmus had long been an area of Kalevalaic song, it rapidly developed a folk culture in many respects resembling that of Pohjanmaa. Varsinais-Suomi, Satakunta, Häme and Uusimaa entered the period of industrial and social upheaval early, and continually absorbed new influences from the West. All eastern Finland (Savo, North Karelia, Kainuu) was an area of energetic enterprise in which people sought new means of livelihood; an individualistic sparsely-scattered population worked the earth by burning and ploughing. Eastern Finland was always an underdeveloped area and even in the products of its traditional culture a temporary quality is many times evident. In Karelia, which belongs almost entirely to Russia, social interaction was based largely on ties with the clan; this is one reason why the Kalevala tradition survived in Karelia into the 20th century.
In the period of urban culture traditional folk practices rapidly yielded to commercially directed culture served by the mass media. Folk-dancing and early instrumental music continued to be fostered by a large number of enthusiastic amateurs. Since the 1950s interest in folk culture has increased, and large festivals accommodating various forms of folk expression are held throughout the country.
The oldest collections of folk music in Finland, especially manuscripts, are those of the Finnish Literature Society, established in 1831. A large collection of folk material is held by the Institute for Folk Tradition (founded in 1965) at the University of Tampere. The Folk Music Institute in Kaustinen was founded in 1974 as a result of a folk music revival which started after the first Kaustinen Folk Music Festival in 1968. The institute has a large collection of contemporary Finnish folk music. Other activities can be divided into four categories: service, education, research and publishing. Kaustinen is also the home of a folk music group Tallari, a folk music school ‘Ala Könni-opisto’ named after a famous folklorist and folk music collector Erkki Ala-Könni, and the Museum of Traditional Folk Instruments. There is folk music education at some music schools and universities, and a department of folk music at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.
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2. Vocal music.
Kalevalaic song, which originated when Finnish language was not separated from other Finnish languages in the Baltic area, was prevalent in western Finland until the 17th century and in eastern Finland until the 19th century. In Karelia traces of it have been found even in the 20th century. Runonlaulu, the singing of old poems or Kalevalaic songs, has been practised by almost all the Finnish peoples in the Baltic area (Finns, Karelians, Ingrians, Votes and Estonians). Kalevalaic metre consists of four trochaic feet of which the first is not bound by rules. In about half the verses the poetic accent coincides with the spoken accent. The lines are not arranged in stanzas, though lyric poems have some architectonic form. Kalevalaic poetry makes much use of parallelism, in alliteration, repetition of verses, repetitive formulae and patterned phrases. The texts include epics, lyrical poems, incantations and various festive and occasional poems. They originated in the pagan period and the Middle Ages; some of the more recent examples are compositions by well-known people.
With the exception of incantations all poems in Kalevalaic metre were sung, generally by a single voice to a one- or two-phrase melody with a narrow range, usually of a 5th. The range is widest in the west, while on the Karelian isthmus and in Ingria three- and four-note melodies are usual. The melodies are normally syllabic, melisma becoming more frequent towards the east. There are many types of rhythm and melody, of which the best known is the ‘Kalevala melody’. This is often characterized by one- or two-line stanzas and 5/4 metre; the two last notes of each line are on the tonic or 2nd and are twice as long as the others (ex.1). Attempts have been made to find Finno-Ugric (i.e. pre-Finnish) elements in the melodies of Kalevalaic songs. Some of the music certainly dates from the stylistic period of the early Kalevala.
The songs were performed in different ways depending on area and poetic genre. Historical sources describe a typical manner of singing epic poems: two men held each other’s hands and sang in turn, one repeating each verse sung by the other. In Viena, where the epic poems survived the longest, this method was not used at the time when the collection of melodies began in the 19th century. At that time a single singer generally recited the poems, though sometimes, for example in wedding poems, a chorus sang in unison. The manner of singing in Ingria and on the Karelian isthmus differed from that in other areas. There the songs belonged mostly to the women’s repertory and were performed chiefly by a principal singer alternating with a choir singing in several parts. In the 17th century the early Kalevalaic metre began to give way to the four-line song using rhymed verse, which flourished in the mid-19th century until it was supplanted by commercial popular music after World War I.
Laments are improvised non-metric poems using traditional elements, metaphors and patterns and are recited to a melody that is adapted to suit the words. In the Finnish-Karelian culture area they belong to the traditions of the people living in Orthodox areas, and are part of the Lutheran tradition only in Ingria. The lament is a genre restricted to women, its function being the expression of grief and other strong emotions. It was an essential part of the rites connected with the changing of social roles or status such as funerals or weddings. In Viena it has been known for a hired lament-singer to recite as many as 30 laments for the deceased on the burial day alone. At a funeral the deceased person is ushered from this world to the realm of the dead; similarly at weddings the bride is gradually made familiar with her new situation by means of laments. The wedding pageantry was richest in Ingria where, in addition to songs in Kalevalaic metre, the ceremony sometimes included over 50 laments. Besides funeral dirges and wedding laments, there are also occasional thanksgiving and recollective laments, and laments for a close relative going off to war.
Although there are many differences between individual reciters, the stylistic traits of people from different areas are as distinct. Since the lines of the text are not in a uniform metre, the melody consists of freely improvised lines and stanzas. The rhythm consists of the free alternation of units of duple and triple beats. The laments make abundant use of micro-intervals and also of micro-rhythm, which is often further increased by the multiplying melismas towards the end of the piece (ex.2).
The performance of a lament is an experience in total, unrestrained emotion, accompanied by streaming tears and sobbing that intermittently cut off the narrative song. The best reciters, like singers of Kalevalaic songs, have been members of a particular clan. The lament has now almost disappeared from Finland: it still survives to a certain extent in Russian Karelia, in the regions bordering the White Sea and particularly around Olonets.
Vocal genres that were less important than Kalevalaic singing and laments, but which were part of the same early culture, include the joiku in north Viena, a type of song describing something (a person, animal or natural feature), related to the Lappish juoigos and part of the women’s tradition only.
The newer rhymed folksong belongs to a period when social classes in Finland were becoming more differentiated. The form is similar to many Scandinavian and central European song types. The genre comprises sub-groups with highly diverse content and contexts of performance. The commonest form is the lyrical rekilaulu, which often took shape from several stanzas linked together to suit the occasion. It is characterized by a description of nature in the opening lines, which sometimes bears only a loose relation to the rest of the text. The first ballads introduced to Finland from the West were transcribed into Kalevalaic metre; later examples were put into rhymed verse. Epic songs were often composed in the wake of important events and published as broadside songs.
The earliest of the newer folksongs had a musical structure ABAB; later the melodies became more complex. The type in which the last two notes of a couplet are held for twice their length spread rapidly from west to east and reached Karelia in the 19th century. The commonest rhythmic structure is the reki rhythm, where there are seven stressed syllables and eight stressed notes in a pair of stanzas (ex.3). The minor key is typical of the newer folksongs, although in quantitative terms more than half of them are in a major key. Typical of older melodic types, especially in south Pohjanmaa, is that the 7th is often minor, and the 6th is sharpened or doesn’t exist. The rhymed song has absorbed many melodies and rhythms from instrumental music, e.g. polskalaulu.
The song texts reflect the life of 19th-century village communities which were experiencing a period of upheaval. They were often composed by young people and sung to ring-games and dances, at the village swings and on other occasions when the whole community was together at work or leisure.
Religious folksongs do not constitute a single melodic genre. They can be divided into three main groups: chorale variants, variants of secular melodies, and independent religious melodies; they were sung in churches, meeting houses, homes and at festivals. The evangelical movement played a considerable role in the development of religious melodies. The most striking difference from printed chorales and secular melodies is the exceptional abundance of melisma. The music used by the Orthodox Church has had less significance for folk music than that of the Lutheran Church.
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3. Instrumental music.
The Kantele (fig.3), a string instrument well known in the entire Balto-Finnish region except the northernmost reaches of Finland and Karelia, is a plucked zither. Its nearest relatives are the Estonian kannel, the Lithuanian kanklės, the Latvian kokle and the north Russian guslisvontšatije or guslikrilovidnije.
There are two types of kantele in Finland: one small and carved, the other with a bigger box. The earliest kantele in Finland was a five-string instrument, tuned to a pentachord. The kantele made from one piece of wood was usually carved or hollowed out from underneath or from on top. The instrument had a separate soundboard added made of either birch-bark or wooden pegs to make an enclosed resonating chamber. Playing styles are divided according to the manufacture of the instrument: those hollowed out from underneath are usually played with a covering technique and the other style included a plucking technique. The number of strings on the kantele gradually increased so that it was impossible to build the instrument from one piece of wood. Builders began making larger kanteles by combining individual pieces of wood to form an enclosed box. Also, the style of playing changed from older styles where the fingers where kept together to a new position where the right hand plays the melody and the left hand plays the bass and accompaniment. The strings were originally made by twisting horsehair. Later, bronze, iron and steel were used. In the 1920s a concert model of the kantele was developed which could be tuned by means of a special machine. The instrument is basically diatonic. There are seven spindles, and as a lever is pushed or pulled, each string is raised or lowered by a half step. This modern concert instrument is mainly used in art music. The concert kantele is held with the longest string closest to the player while originally the shortest string was held closest to the player. According to historical sources, a five-string kantele was used to accompany Kalevalaic songs, but most of the collected melodies are song- and dance-tunes and improvisations. Song and dance melodies were played on the largest instruments, and there were also kantele ensembles. Today the five-string kantele is a popular school instrument. Bigger kantele still exist in folk music, especially in central Pohjanmaa, but modern playing is usually a part of the existing Western art music teaching infrastructure.
The jouhikko or jouhikannel (fig.4, seeStråkharpa) is a two-, three- or four-string bowed lyre that reached Finland from Scandinavia and is related, inter alia, to the Welsh Crwth. Its body is hollowed out from the front and is fitted with a soundboard, with a hole for the hand at one end to enable the melody string of the instrument to be stopped with the knuckles. The instrument is played sitting down. The strings are tuned to 4ths and 5ths and one string is usually left to vibrate freely, producing a continuous drone. Folk mastery of the jouhikko was last noted in parts of Savo and Karelia at the beginning of the 20th century. Jouhikko melodies suggest that the instrument was used chiefly to play dance music. Typical of the bowing style is to put an accent on the offbeat.
From archaeological excavations we know that the jew’s harp came to Finland during the late Middle Ages at the latest. It was still played at the beginning of the 20th century.
The frame drum used by Lappish shamans was also an ancient instrument of the Finns. Among membranophones, the nynnypilli mirliton made of reed is well known everywhere. Among the few idiophones noteworthy are the hongankolistaja, a wooden stick used to beat time against forest pine trees, some sow and horse bells of wood, brass and iron, puukello and räty percussion tubes, the lepenelauta Karelian percussion board, the rapapalli rattle, a small ball made of strips of birch-bark and the räikkä cog rattle. There were also early aerophones. Throughout the Finnish-Karelian cultural area numerous types of wind instruments are used. They are traditionally referred to by their function, such as herder’s instruments, an earthenware flute that plays bird calls, pyypilli and rukoustorvi decoy hunting whistles and a wooden trumpet used to call people to the house of prayer. Herder’s instruments can be classified into various groups by sounds they produce: short end-blown whistles made from wood or other plants; tongue-duct flutes such as the putkihuilu, a short instrument without finger-holes made of wild chervil, and the mäntyhuilu flute known in many European countries, in which the tongue of the player directs the flow of air against the sharp edge of a hole; and block-and-duct flutes in which the block can either be detachable or non-detachable. Non-detachable flutes include the pajupilli whistle made from willow or other deciduous woods; it is made frequently in late spring to early summer when barks peel. There are usually no finger-holes. Duct flutes with detachable blocks include those with closed ends such as the umpihuilu willow bark or cow chervil flute, the piisku quill or bone flute, the petäjäpilli pine flute and those with open ends such as lötkö open flute without finger-holes made from willow bark and the pitkähuilu, a longer, natural-scale flute made of willow bark. Free aerophones were also commonly used, such as vibrating reeds with a split at the end or in the middle, made of wild chervil, a pykäläpilli ribbon reed made of a leaf, the tuohipilli framed birch-bark ribbon reed and the bullroarer pärrä made from a piece of birch-bark or leaf.
Early oboes were usually simple and ephemeral, such as the plant stalk varsipilli, the kukkapilli ‘flower flute’, and the pod palkopilli. Idio- and heteroglot clarinets are made from one or several pieces, and in many cases there is a birch-bark sound projector at the end. With or without finger-holes, idioglot clarinets are made of reed or straw and are referred to by a variety of names such as ruokopilli (reed pipe), soropilli, toropilli and olkipilli (straw pipe). The tronvopilli is of the same type but made of willow. The tubes of the following group of clarinets are constructed by twisting and pulling the heartwood out of a tree: the huulipilli (lip pipe), the läveri consisting of two tubes with finger-holes , and the lävikkö, which is similar but has a funnel made of birch-bark or horn at the end. The kärjennoukka, the leropilli and the hautatorvi with a funnel made of birch-bark, are constructed from a split and gouged piece of wood. A heteroglot clarinet made by pulling out the heartwood is known as the mänkeri and is found in western Finland. The Karelian liru is as musically versatile as the mänkeri. Other heteroglot conical clarinets were sometimes made of cow horn.
Two types of historical trumpets can be identified: straight and crooked. These trumpets were usually made from trees, birch-bark or horn. The lehmänsarvi (cow horn) crooked and short trumpets and the pukinsarvi (goat’s horn) usually had three to five finger-holes (fig.5). In eastern Finland similar instruments were made of wood, such as the puusarvi (wooden horn) or the lulletti which had a strip of birch-bark wrapped around in a spiral. There is only one trumpet known throughout the Finnish-Karelian cultural area: the tuohitorvi is constructed by winding birch-bark around itself. More durable instruments were constructed of wood, such as the luikku, totto and the Karelian brelo, turu and pullotorvi. The Ingrian-born Teppo Repo (1886–1962) became popular not only in Finland but abroad as a player and maker of many herders’ instruments. His favourite instruments included the truba trumpet with finger-holes made from a split piece of wood that has been gouged out and wrapped spirally with a strip of birch-bark. The truba was used for horse herding and also for dance. Similarly constructed are the soittu or paimensoittu recorders used by herders. Instruments made by Repo are in the collections of several foreign museums.
The first mentions of the fiddle as a Finnish folk instrument date from the 17th century. It predominated in western and southern Finland in the 18th century and, particularly, the 19th century, but was rare in Viena and Olonets. The fiddle was traditionally used everywhere as a dance music instrument, especially at weddings having a distinctly Scandinavian character and the ceremonies and dances performed at them represent an exceptionally fine repertory of violin melodies in a Baroque style (ex.4). Since there were often two or three fiddlers at the weddings, the melodies were sometimes played in octaves. Harmonic accompaniment by the fiddles or, from the end of the 19th century, by a harmonium, was sometimes added; otherwise the fiddle was primarily a solo instrument, and its melodies incorporate a considerable amount of ornamentation. A short biting bow, differing from the sort used in concert music, was used to define an easy dance rhythm. The emphasis on unstressed notes of the bar is typical of the earlier tradition. The fiddle spread slowly everywhere in the country but in the eastern areas it did not have enough time to develop into a strong tradition before the accordion became popular.
The clarinet was adopted to folk music as a result of military bands after the beginning of the 19th century. Clarinettists often began by playing in army bands, and acquired a rich repertory of marches besides playing other dance music. Clarinets are used mainly in the western part of the country and many times along with the violin. The clarinet did not have a distinctive musical repertory and about half of known folk clarinettists have also played the violin. Many older instruments had only five keys.
Early versions of the accordion came to Finland some two or three decades after its development in the 1820s. It reached the country via two routes: from Russia in the east and from central Europe and Italy in the south. The accordion soon assumed a dominant role over the fiddle and kantele in providing music for dancing because of its relative affordability, ability to project a greater sound and accompany with chords, despite heavy opposition of the church and some folk music researchers. The earliest instruments were square boxes with one row of diatonic buttons and only two bass chords; the notes varied according to the direction of the bellows movement. Two-row accordions were also diatonic, but in some models where the bass buttons were arranged in uneven rows the bass notes remained constant irrespective of the bellows movement. Chromatic piano-accordions are common today in Finland, but more popular is the button accordion that has three basic rows of buttons on the treble side with two additional rows to facilitate fingering. The keyboard used is the Italian C-keyboard.
The mouth organ has been played in Finland since the end of the 19th century. Less important instruments have been the virsikannel bowed zither from Sweden (Swedish, Psalmodikon), which was developed in Denmark and Sweden in the early 19th century for accompanying hymn singing, the mandolin, zither, guitar, triangle and musical saw. There is little information in Finland concerning the virsikannel, nor is there much information on the bagpipe, the säkkipilli or the rakkopilli.
In contemporary Finland, instrumental music, in particular pelimannimusiikki or instrumental folk dance music, has achieved wide popularity through contests and festivals organized on traditional themes. Associations of folk music instrumentalists have thousands of members. Gramophone records of traditional melodies or melodies composed in the traditional style became among the most popular in the late 1960s, and at the beginning of the 70s especially because of Konst Jylhä (1910–84) and his group from Kaustinen. A typical development in instrumental folk music has been the formation of performing groups, usually of two fiddles, a harmonium or accordion, and double bass. As a result of organized education and promotion, historical and modern folk music have gradually assumed independent positions in Finnish culture. Some professional and semi-professional youth groups have gained international popularity as a part of the world music movement.
Finland, §II: Traditional
Three stages of development can be distinguished in the history of Finnish folk dancing: the period of ring- and song-dancing; the period of group and social dancing; and the period of dancing in couples.
To the first and oldest period belong the lyrical songs in Kalevalaic metre performed by girls from Ingria and South Karelia. These were characterized by a leading singer who alternated with a polyphonic chorus. Rhymed ring-dance songs in quatrains and other dance-songs belong to a later stage of the same period.
The oldest group dance is the Polska, which was popular in Finland by the beginning of the 18th century. Although most polska melodies have been collected in Pohjanmaa, the dance was known throughout the country except in the far north and Karelia. At old-fashioned weddings in Karelia only laments and Kalevalaic songs were sung, whereas further west the most important parts of the ceremony were the dances, of which the polska was the most common. The minuet, another early group dance, remained restricted to the western areas. Other dances of the same period were the Quadrille, which spread to Finland from both the west and the east, and the Anglaise. The old-fashioned waltz, a group dance, became known towards the end of the 18th century and spread in numerous versions and names throughout the country. Many times it was faster than the modern waltz which was often called the ‘Yankee’ waltz due to its return to Pohjanmaa with returning Finnish-American emigrants. Different counties have their favourite dances, such as the square fyyrkantti in Uusimaa and small square-dances in Häme. In Karelia the dances in Russian style are faster than dances native to the west, and Karelian dances often include solo exhibitions. The purpuri, a chain of dances for both groups and couples, is used particularly at weddings.
The most important couple-dances are the polka, mazurka, waltz, German polka, jenkka or sottiisi.
Finland, §II: Traditional
5. Finnish–Swedish traditional music.
The Swedish-speaking population of the Finnish coastal areas had emigrated from central Sweden by the 12th century and settled in southern Finland. The Swedish settlement of Pohjanmaa occurred somewhat later, whereas the Swedish population of Ahvenanmaa, the archipelago between Finland and Sweden, was already permanent in the 6th century.
The music of the Swedish-speaking areas has in general closely followed the development of the corresponding Swedish tradition, though both vocal and instrumental music have been notably conservative; the Swedish minority in Finland belongs to one of the most culturally isolated Swedish-speaking areas. The most important kind of vocal music was the ballad, a form that persisted into the 20th century. The oldest dance melodies, the polskas and minuets, have survived in an unbroken tradition in certain parts of Pohjanmaa, and more minuets have been collected in Finnish-Swedish areas than in other Scandinavian countries. In Pohjanmaa ceremonial wedding melodies are also well represented. The counties further south, Ahvenanmaa, Varsinais-Suomi and Uusimaa, have been the readiest to assimilate new influences.
The most important instrument has been the violin; the clarinet was also popular, especially in Pohjanmaa, and the psalmodikon was used to accompany religious songs. In the late 19th century the accordion and the associated polkas and schottisches spread to all the Swedish-speaking areas. According to historical evidence, the Nyckelharpa (a Swedish keyed fiddle) and the jew’s harp were also played.
The collection and study of traditional music, beginning in the 19th century, made the rural population more aware of their own culture. In late 20th-century Finland traditional music became used to strengthen the cultural identity and group solidarity of the Swedish minority. It is propagated through three main channels: recordings on discs and tape and published books of melodies; folk music clubs and societies; and folk festivals. Recordings are located in the Folk Music Institute, the Finnish Literature Society and the Finnish-Swedish Folk Music Institute.
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finnish traditional music
I.Krohn, ed.: Kansantansseja [Folkdances] (Jyväskylä, 1893–7/R1975 as Vanhoja pelimannisävelmiä)
O.Andersson and others: Sånglekar [Game songs] (Turku, 1967)
A.-M.Häggman, ed.: Visa och visforskning [Folksong and study of folksong] (Helsingfors, 1974)
O.Andersson and G.Dahlström, ed.: Folkdans: Yngre dansmelodier (Turku, 1975)
A.-M.Häggman: Magdalena på källebro: en studie i finlandsvensk vistradition med utgångspunkt i visan om Maria Magdalena [Magdalena on the wellbridge: a study of Finnish-Swedish folksong tradition] (Helsingfors, 1992)
A.-M.Häggman and others, ed.: Nordisk vistradition: den episka visan [Nordic song tradition: epic song] (Åbo, 1994)
A.-M.Häggman, ed.: Folkmusik i förändring [Folk music in change] (Vasa, 1996)