The Northern Silence

Journeys in Nordic Music and Culture

Product Details
Yale University Press
  pages -  
234 x 155
16 b-w illus. 1 map
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Product Description

The Northern Silence

An essential exploration of Nordic composers and musicians, and the distinctive culture that continues to shape them

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 some of the most remarkable music ever written along the way. 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.

About the Author
Andrew Mellor is a journalist and critic. He has written about music, architecture, design, and cultural politics for publications around the world and is a critic for Gramophone and the Financial Times. He lives in Copenhagen.

“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’

"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, Finish Music Quarterly


“In [Mellor’s] his 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,

“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