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According to new research radio made the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius an international media figure

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New research highlights how, especially in the 1930s, a solid relationship was born between radio and Finland’s most famous composer Jean Sibelius. It had an important effect on the development of broadcast operations as well as on the status of Sibelius and Western classical art music.

Jean Sibelius at his desk at his study in Ainola.
Jean Sibelius at his desk in Ainola, 1915. Erric Sundström, Helsinki city museum https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en

Finland’s most famous art music composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) gradually ceased writing new music at the end of the 1920s. At the same time, radio broadcasts became more common in Europe. In Finland, the key player in the industry was Finnish Broadcast Company Yleisradio, founded in 1926, which gained broadcast monopoly status in 1934.

Thanks to AM technology and coordinated joint concerts, Yleisradio showed that it had something to offer to an international audience as well, says Janne Mäkelä, visiting researcher from the University of the Arts Helsinki.

Sibelius’s music, on the other hand, spread effectively around the world and made Sibelius himself a celebrated national hero and an international media figure.

’In previous studies, the 1930s have often been seen as a culturally closed decade in Europe including Finland,’ says Janne Mäkelä.

According to his research, the decade was also transnational in nature due to the intensive relationship between radio and classical music.

‘Sibelius himself was a diligent radio listener and, with the help of AM broadcasts, newspaper programme information and personal networks, stayed well informed about foreign radio programmes until the 1950s,’ Mäkelä says.

In the 1950s, the international reach of radio decreased due to the new FM technology.

The central research material of the article consists of Finnish newspapers and magazines and Yleisradio’s annual reports. The research literature includes writings about music, radio operations, internationality and Jean Sibelius.

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The University of the Arts Helsinki (Uniarts Helsinki) provides the highest level of education in music, fine arts, performing arts and writing in Finland. Uniarts Helsinki is an international forerunner in education and research in the field of arts. We strengthen the role of art as a force that reforms society. Established in 2013, Uniarts Helsinki consists of the Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy and Theatre Academy.

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