How Finnish music sounds to a foreigner

(written by Matei Gheorghiu)

Many might know that I came to Finland eight and a half years ago. Even though I got used to contemporary and classical Finnish music, I can still recall very well the first impressions I had on it when I came here back in 2007. Before I came, I had heard music by Lindberg, Aho and Kokkonen and of course, Sibelius. But what made it sound ”Finnish”? After only one year, I had already discovered some aspects of Finnish music that, to me, make it sound authentic and ”endemic”. Of course, by then and even more afterwards, my knowledge on Finnish music has expanded.

Here I will try briefly to point out 5 aspects of Finnish contemporary music that make it Finnish from the eyes of a foreigner from Romania. There are clearly lots of other features that could be mentioned, but I will point out the ones that seem the most interesting from my point of view. Of course, not all pieces have all these features. However, most Finnish pieces tend to have 2–3 of them.

Here they are:

1) Music must flow like water

No matter what, Finnish composers don’t like to stop much. You will not see Messiaen or Stravinsky–like pieces made of blocks or unrelated sections. There are rarely any fermatas that end sections followed by new beginnings. And of course, the music is always related to the previous material. Clear continuity is the key.

2) Processualism = good music

An extension of the previous section, the idea that a composer has the craft to make very smooth changes from one material to another is very catchy and considered appealing by both composers and listeners. Ligeti would have been happy to have been a Finn.

3) Music rarely truly rests

Finnish people might be shy, or might not talk much, but when they compose they like their music to be restless. For example, even if the piece is slow, with low dynamics, and static, there are still some 16-notes lurking somewhere in the background. I would actually say that often Finnish music is more fiery than cold from this point of view.

4) Finns love the low register

I remember a teacher of mine saying back home that a good composer knows when to take the heavy bass instruments out and give space to the middle and higher registers. However, many Finnish pieces rely heavily on bass and much less on the higher register. Of course, this is not a general rule, but I find it quite common. Might this be related to the love for heavy metal here in the North? When I first heard Sampo Haapamäki’s bass clarinet concerto, I was shocked that the low register was used without a break for over 20 minutes. I told him that. Later, I realized he’s not alone.

5) Even when emotional, keep distance

One thing that fascinated me about Sibelius as a teenager was that, unlike many romantic composers, he manages to bring powerful and moving moments without you feeling that he’s telling you too much about himself. I feel this is what mostly the rest of the music by Finnish composers sounds like as well; deep, profound, but keeping a lot of dignifying mystery is preferred.

If I didn’t convince you, I hope at least I made you think, or smile.


Matei GHEORGHIU ( Helsinki FI / RO)

Composer, vice chairperson for Ears Open

Liity jäseneksi | Join to be a member

Korvat auki ry:n jäsenmaksu / Korvat auki ry. Membership fee 2020-2021


Korvat auki ry:n jäseneksi voi liittyä kuka tahansa yhdistyksen toimminnasta kiinnostunut. Liittyäksesi jäseneksi:

  1. Maksa yhdistyksen jäsenmaksu alla olevien tietojen mukaan.
  2. Ilmoita nimesi ja sähköpostiosoitteesi osoitteeseen jäsenrekisteriä ja jäsenkirjettä varten. Jäsenetusi (mm. oikeus osallistua hakuihimme) astuvat voimaan maksettuasi jäsenmaksun.


Anyone interested in the activities of Korvat auki can join to be a member of the society. To become a member:

  1. Pay the membership fee according the info below.
  2. Send your name and email addres to Your membership benefits are active after paying the fee.


Maksutiedot/Payment details

Saaja/Receiver: Korvat auki ry

Tilinro/Account (IBAN): FI50 8146 9710 2206 81


Viitenumerot/Reference nos:

  • opiskelijat/students 2011
  • muut normaalit jäsenet / other normal members 2024
  • kannatusjäsenet/support members 2037


  • opiskelijat/students 20,00 €
  • muut normaalit jäsenet / other normal members 30,00 €
  • kannatusjäsenet/support members 60,00+ €

(info in English below)


Hyvä Korvat auki –yhdistyksen jäsen tai jäseneksi liittyvä!

Yhdistyksen toimikausi on 1.8.-31.7. ja jäsenedut alkaneella kaudella astuvat voimaan maksettuasi sitä vastaavan jäsenmaksun.


  • pääset ilmaiseksi yhdistyksen konsertteihin ja muihin tapahtumiin koko vuoden ajan
  • voit osallistua yhdistyksen teoshakuihin
  • saat linjata yhdistyksen toimintaa osallistumalla syys- ja kevätkokoukseen.

Kannatusjäsenten lisäetu:

  • nimesi mainitaan yhdistyksen konserttien ja muiden yleisötapahtumien ohjelmalehtisissä.

Tarjoamme myös mahdollisuutta liittyä yhdistyksen kannatusjäseneksi. Normaalit jäsenmaksumme ovat verrattain maltillisia, jotta mahdollisimman monella toiminnasta kiinnostuneella olisi mahdollisuus osallistua yhdistyksen toimintaan. Kannatusjäsenyyden muodossa tarjoamme mahdollisuutta yhdistyksen pienimittakaavaiseen sponsorointiin niille, joille hieman suurempi vuotuinen jäsenmaksu ei muodosta kynnystä. 45 euron ero normaalin ja kannatusjäsenmaksun välillä vastaa esimerkiksi suurin piirtein yhden Korvat auki -konsertin keskimääräisiä tekijänoikeuskuluja. Yhdistyksessä olemme suuresti kiitollisia kaikesta tällaisesta tuesta.

Otathan epäröimättä yhteyttä, jos on kysyttävää!


Korvat auki -yhdistys


Dear current or becoming member of Korvat auki!

Our season is August 1 to July 31. Your membership benefits for this season are activated after paying the respective fee.

The benefits:

  • free entrance to all our concerts and other public events
  • possibility to participate in calls for scores
  • you may attend our autumn and spring meetings, making decisions on our activity.

The extra benefit for support members:

  • you get your name mentioned by all our concerts and other public events.

We now offer the possibility to join Korvat auki as a support member. Our regular membership fees are modest compared to some other societies in order to make young members’ participating more affordable. However, for those who are not alienated by a slightly bigger fee, we offer a possibility to small scale sponsoring by becoming a support member. The difference between regular and support membership fees, 45 euro, approximately equals to the copyright expenses of an average Korvat auki concert. Korvat auki is very grateful for your support.

If there is anything you would like to ask considering membership fees, please, don’t hesitate to ask!

Best regards,
Board of Korvat auki