The Northern Silence
Journeys in Nordic Music and Culture
Imprint: Yale University Press
Once considered a musical backwater, the Nordic region is now a musical powerhouse. Conductors from Denmark and Finland dominate the British and American orchestral scene. Interest in the old masters Sibelius and Grieg is soaring and progressive pop artists like Björk continue to fascinate as much as they entertain.
Andrew Mellor journeys to the heart of the Nordic cultural psyche. From Reykjavik to Rovaniemi, he examines the success of Nordic music’s performers, the attitude of its audiences, and the sound of its composers past and present—celebrating along the way some of the most remarkable music ever written. Mellor peers into the dark side of the Scandinavian utopia, from xenophobia and alcoholism to parochialism and the twilight of the social democratic dream. Drawing on a range of genres and firsthand encounters, he reveals that our fascination with Nordic societies and our love for Nordic music might be more intertwined than first thought.
“The Nordic lands have become a musical powerhouse, from Grieg and Sibelius to Björk and Eurovision winners. Over a decade or more a passion for all things northern has taken Mellor on an exploration of Nordic culture, its folklore and landscapes, the Nordic noir mindset and, above all, its musical richness.”—Richard Fairman, Financial Times, “Best summer books of 2022: Classical music”
"Andrew Mellor’s The Northern Silence: Journeys in Nordic Music and Culture (Yale) brings together, with a discoverer’s verve and an expert’s attentive accuracy, the paradox behind the five Nordic countries’ artistic achievements. Their awed reverence for nature, combined with deep respect for preceding generations, goes with insistence on maintaining progressive institutions for the furtherance of the arts. Mellor compellingly presents their stress on music in school curriculums, their training of musicians and their widespread provision of conducive buildings and locations."—Paul Binding, Times Literary Supplement 'Books of 2022'
“The book is above all a profuse and expert love letter to music and life in the Nordic countries. Mellor’s expertise in and enthusiasm for his subject comes clearly across in the text.”—Lasse Lehtonen, Finnish Music Quarterly
“Above all, The Northern Silence is an extraordinary achievement for Mellor’s ability on the one hand to find commonalities among disparate threads, and on the other to tease out the implications of a single theme: neither with any expectation of a definitive answer.”—Will Yeoman, Limelight
“In [Mellor’s] free-ranging journeys through the region, people, places and history, sounds and silences tumble over each other in an excitement of discovery against the backdrop of landscapes that are as psychological as they are elemental—and broodingly intense.”—Steph Power, BBC Music Magazine
“There’s no aspect of Scandinavian or Nordic life that doesn’t illuminate Mellor’s understanding of the whole. . . . In short, then, the best kind of music book—one that takes literally Nielsen’s declaration that ‘Music is life,’ and makes it the heart and soul of something infinitely wider and more fascinating.”—Richard Bratby, Gramophone
“This magical part of the world is Mellor’s home and this book is a journey in his company, basking in his knowledge and passion for music and people. . . . It’s a walk through a forest listening to thoughts and stories and the silences.”—Fiona Talkington, Songlines
“This absorbing read says a great deal for Mellor’s breadth of outlook and his depth of sympathies. In the Prelude and Postlude, the reaching-out of Sibelius’s masterpiece Tapiola towards silence is pertinently considered as exemplifying Nordic culture. Hopefully this book’s authorial voice will stay resilient for a long while yet.”—Richard Whitehouse, Arcana.fm
“Mellor brings to his accounts of Grieg, Nielsen and Sibelius stimulating freshness of approach. But he also writes compellingly—and with galvanising attention to detail—about those composers not as yet hallowed by time.”—Paul Binding, Anglo-Norse Review
“The Northern Silence is a compelling take on music and its place in a society . . . It deserves to be read by anyone interested or involved in the arts today, or by anyone concerned by the direction in which Western, and not just Nordic countries, appear to be going."—Stuart Millson, The Quarterly Review
“Andrew Mellor leads us on an evocative journey through the rich and sonorous pine forest of Nordic music, acting as our faithful and knowledgeable guide and discovering treasures at every turn.”—Víkingur Ólafsson, Pianist
“A sense of deep listening and of silence underpins this brilliant book; an impressive thought-map of interconnected journeys, from the forest to the heart of the Nordic psyche. Mellor presents his insightful ideas with an intensely personal clarity, one that seems infused with the crisp, clean air of the Nordic wilderness.”—Tansy Davies, composer
“An outstanding account. Andrew Mellor takes us on a sonic journey that is as ferociously thrilling and uncommonly beautiful as the Nordic landscape which he now calls home. Fascinating, nuanced and ear-opening. I am listening anew.”—Clemency Burton-Hill, broadcaster, musician, and author
“I have long admired and respected Andrew Mellor’s work. He always writes with a deep knowledge and love of his subject matter and his particular expertise in the field of Nordic music is unparalleled.”—Leif Ove Andsnes, pianist
“I was entranced by this pitch perfect journey through Scandinavia, evoking the people, the places and most uniquely, the music; inspired by the silence and the snow, the long, dark winters and frantic bursts of summer that make life and culture feel so visceral there.”—Mariella Frostrup, broadcaster and author