Research at the Department of Musicology

The University of Turku’s Department of Musicology conducts top-quality research in the many different fields of cultural musicology. 

We research music across genre boundaries, from popular music to classical music. Our research places special emphasis on a cultural-critical orientation, multidisciplinary practices, and practically oriented methods that are relevant for working life. 

Cultural musicology covers a vast section of the current international trends of music research. Its focus areas include such themes as music and current cultures, music and identity, popular music studies, and the historical study of music. Our research aims towards societal interaction and combines the traditions of art and cultural studies with music industry practices. 

Typical research questions:

  • How is music connected to everyday life and the creation of identities?
  • How is music appreciated in cultures?
  • How is music composed, produced and consumed?
  • How does music participate in everyday political discussions?
  • What does music mean to musicians, audiences and societies?

Research projects

Cultural Study and Close Reading of Music

Most of the research and teaching conducted in the Department can be referred to as the cultural study of music. The cultural study of music looks beyond any simple descriptions of musical activities or vocational training towards the broader meanings and functions of music in our daily lives and society at large. Close reading is a form of cultural analysis that takes a close look at our experiences and understanding of musical sounds. Close reading is not specific to musicology, although it can include music analysis. Typically, it can be combined with the analysis of song lyrics, audiovisual analysis, visual analysis, and the study of soundscapes and live music performances. It can also be easily combined with other theoretical approaches, such as the study of gender, places, generations, ethnicities or social classes. As an approach, close reading is a distinctive part of the multidisciplinary research that is conducted within art and cultural studies.  

The Cultural Study of Popular Music

The cultural study of popular music utilises different research methods that are based on and constructed by the traditions of musicology, cultural history and sociology. This type of research can also be understood as consisting of various styles, practices and phenomena. In connection with this, musical research efforts that focus on the themes of identity, gender, body, place and nationality, the music industry, censorship, politics and genre history play an important role in the cultural study of popular music. In addition, special questions like popular music and disability, popular music and ageing, popular music in political movements and human rights, and cultural branding through popular music represent new research areas that have attracted more contemporary attention.

Special areas of research in Turku:

  1. Popular music and spectacle
  2. The history of popular music and its genres
  • Music videos, the portrayal of artists, and stardom
  • Popular music and local culture

Researchers involved in this area in the Department: John RichardsonKari Kallioniemi, Tiina Käpylä, Milla Tiainen, Tuomas Auvinen, Kimi KärkiPertti GrönholmJelena Gligorijevic

Audiovisual Music Research

Audiovisual music is a key media technology that moulds our perceptions of reality.

Music is often presented in its audiovisual form in our culture, both historically and in our current media-focused society. Audiovisual music research is an interdisciplinary field that utilises research methods from media and technology, gender studies, philosophy, and cultural theories.

In our Department, we research all forms of audiovisual music: music videos, film music and sound design, music and sounds used in games, video and sound art, opera and theatre music, performances and concerts, and any kind of performance art where music or sound plays a central role.

Researchers involved in this area in the Department: John Richardson, Milla Tiainen, Hanna-Mari Riihimäki, Sanna Qvick, Kaapo Huttunen

Music, Gender and Sexuality

In our culture, music is one of the most powerful negotiation fields that is used to create, sustain, mould and (re)define our understanding of gender and sexuality.

Gender and sexuality can be researched in any type of music, and these themes can be added to any research method that focuses on music. Music can be researched from the perspective of not only gender and sexuality but also other factors that are related to identity, such as ethnicity, nationality, class, religion, body and age.

Specific points of interest for musicology in Turku:

  • Feminist music research
  • Queer musicology
  • Music and critical masculinity studies
  • Music and transgender studies
  • Music and sadomasochism studies
  • Music, gender and ethnicity studies (intersectional music studies)
  • Music and embodiment
  • Music and human rights activism

Researchers involved in this area in the Department:  John Richardson, Milla Tiainen, Anna-Elena PääkköläKari Kallioniemi, Tiina Käpylä, Hanna-Mari Riihimäki

Cultural Study of Music Technologies

The cultural study of music technology is a new research direction in musicology that draws on research from several fields. The cultural study of music technology asks how the technologies employed in the construction of musical instruments and recording and playback technologies – everything involved in the production, dissemination and consumption of music – influences our understanding of music. The cultural study of music investigates music technologies not as ends in themselves, but rather as a phenomenon that is complexly connected with its surrounding cultural practices. The research conducted at the Department of Musicology focuses on such matters as 

  • the uses of looping technologies in live performances
  • multitrack recording and its cultural meanings
  • the influence of sampling and MP3 players on production and consumption habits
  • tape cultures as a form of reflection on the present cultural situation
  • the role of the producer in shaping studio recordings       

Researchers involved in this area in the Department: John Richardson, Tiina Käpylä, Tuomas Auvinen, Anna-Elena Pääkkölä

Nationality and Transnationality in Music Studies

Music has always played an important role in the creation of different communities, ethnicities and nationalities. One modern example of this, produced by the culture industry, is the constant flow of biopics of musicians, composers and stars created as the material for the construction of the cultural self-image of a nation. Music is also strongly connected to the way that a nation celebrates its achievements, and one recent example of this could be seen in the festivities related to Finland’s centenary of independence. Due to this ‘burden of tradition’, issues of nationality in the case of music studies should be understood and perceived from a flexible point of view: ethnic backgrounds and transnational issues also have their roles in the construction of narratives concerning music and nationality. In cases like these, the research can focus on music and migration, the musical identity of a place and space, and historical narratives that question canonised ideas of citizenship, ethnicity, language and minorities.

Special areas of research in Turku:

  • Nation, place and musical migration 
  • Music and mentalities
  • (Popular) music geography and locality (scenes, festivals, styles, marginals, communities and subcultures)

Researchers involved in this area in the Department: Kari Kallioniemi, Tiina Käpylä

Study of Music Performances

Performance studies is a multidisciplinary research area that takes a close look at both the practices of the performing arts (music, theatre, dance, etc.) and the habits of everyday social activities. Music performance studies is multidisciplinary in nature and utilises the research conducted in other art performance studies and cultural theories. In the Department of Musicology, the study of music performance focuses on such themes as:

  • Live music performances in concerts, festivals and performance art
  • The processes of music practice
  • The gestures of musicians
  • Performance in music videos and live performances
  • Performance in opera and stage music
  • The performance practices of music
  • The ethnographic and autoethnographic research of performance

Researchers involved in this area in the Department: John Richardson, Tiina Käpylä, Milla Tiainen

Research-creation of Music

The research-creation of music is a new field of study that combines creative musical activities with high-level research. This field extends traditional ideas about practice-based research of the arts by separating research and creative activities into interdependent areas. In research-creation, research activities are transformed and strengthened as a result of being conducted in close proximity to creative activities, either by the researchers themselves – as is the case in autoethnographic studies of the creative process – or through close collaboration with creative parties (artists, performers, producers). Research-creation is interdisciplinary in nature and can easily be combined with other areas of study, such as audiovisual research (when studying music video production), studies of music technology (when studying work in a recording studio), and performance studies. Ideally, though, the research component of research-creation offers something that fundamentally changes the nature of the performed or recorded music, perhaps by offering additional content or a level of reflection that changes our understanding of what has been created. 

Researchers involved in this area in the Department: John Richardson, Milla Tiainen, Katve-Kaisa Kontturi (Art History)

Study of Music Industry

An important direction in our recent teaching and research activities involves our close cooperation with a wide range of employers who work in the music industry, the media, and arts administration. This includes research on the activities of music industry organisations such as the Finnish Composers' Copyright Society Teosto, the Ruisrock music festival, record labels such as  Solina Records and Warner Music Finland, and broadcasters like the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle. We also conduct close collaboration with venues such as Tavastia, Tampere Hall and Turku Concert Hall. Musicology graduates commonly find employment in these fields and organisations, and representatives from these fields and organisations have also participated in our teaching. Each year, we offer courses on various subjects such as music industry fields and practices, music journalism, and working in the media. The research conducted in musicology has focused on music festivals, live streaming services such as Spotify, as well as other industry fields. The research in this area can combine perspectives from several fields, including critical cultural studies and studies related to arts administration, sociology and economics.

Researchers involved in this area in the Department: John Richardson, Tiina Käpylä, Martin Cloonan (TIAS)

Recent publications