There is artistic practice that could be called both music and non-music. Such cases are evidence of an insufficiency in discourse: we cannot properly talk about them because ‘music’ isn’t a suitable word to address them. A selection of such cases is presented, from unusual instruments and performance strategies to composed theatre, including examples from Parviainen’s own artistic practice.

To investigate the roots of the problem, the origin of the word ‘music’ is studied. An unusual version of the conceptual history of music, following the path of the word itself throughout time, is presented. Normally, this is done in the reverse. But starting from the roots, the dogmatism of the word and concept ‘music’ is revealed as a surprisingly severe ethical problem, manifesting throughout history as well as in the present. Luciano Berio and Jean-Jacques Nattiez have pointed out that music is that which we call music. This notion is in line with the religious and dogmatic roots of the word in question.

A radical proposition is presented: what if we called nothing music? How would the change affect our understanding and our practices?

Lera Boroditsky and others have presented updated evidence for linguistic relativism: language affects cognition, sometimes in surprising ways. Based on these views, the present study proposes that discourse concerning artistic practice would be greatly improved if dogmatic concepts like ‘music’ were avoided entirely. A non-dogmatic discourse would align better with practice. Different areas of creativity would connect better, once artificial hindrances are removed. This would also open up unprecedented possibilities for synergy between areas of culture and society.

The artistic component of the present dissertation is an essay film, presenting Töölönlahti (a central district in Helsinki) as a parabolic landscape. There have been many attempts to completely redesign the area, but they have all failed. In this landscape of failed plans, the film presents small-scale interventions by four instrumentalists, adapting to their situation. The film is intended as parabolic communication that, from its own angle, addresses the issues discussed in the written component.