Universitas Helsingiensis

The quarterly of the University of Helsinki
From musician to professor
Eurovision Song Contest 1990 in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Finland is represented for the first time by a Swedish-language song Fri? by the group BEAT. The expectations were high. Was Finland going to succeed, and would her musician's career finally take off?

Tapio Ollikainen

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No, to both questions. Finland and BEAT came last - luckily with eight, not zero points.

Although the previous year's success, when Anneli Saaristo came seventh, had raised the hopes and expectations of Eurosong fans high, the poor success of the band aroused no more criticism than usual. The last position had, after all, been Finland's five times before.

"Apparently because of the Eurovision experience, however, the record sales never improved. We had worked so hard for so long, and we were growing tired of it all. And soon after the Eurovision Song Contest, we went our separate ways," says Christina M. Krause, Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Helsinki and former drummer of BEAT.

Five hundred waltzes

Krause's musical pursuits began long before BEAT. As a child she took violin lessons playing classical music. "I played the music from the sheets until I was fifteen or sixteen, but for some reason classical violin never did anything for me. I was playing by heart, not from it."

The joy of playing came to her with the band BEAT which she set up with the other members in her teens. Krause's instruments increased in the band to include the guitar and drums. But why guitar and drums? "Guitar is a very social instrument, you can accompany others or yourself and you can take it anywhere. And we were short of a drummer so I stepped in. The usual story."

BEAT relied on ambitious and accurate four-part vocals. This did not win young people's favour, as it was unfortunately out of fashion in Finland where punk and New Wave were at their height. So for a band to come from a musical as well as linguistic margin, first in 1981 to win the second prize in a national song competition and then nine years later to represent Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest, is a very good achievement.

Krause was seriously thinking of becoming a professional musician. "When I was young I was ready to do any old gig just to earn myself a living playing music. More than once, it was just me and my guitar in the Turku marketplace. And when the new bar culture arrived in Turku and new bars were opened in numbers, we played in them," says Krause. The gigs started late. Sometimes the first set started at one. "After BEAT I played drums in the dance orchestras around the archipelago. I have to admit that the first 500 waltzes were ok, but after that it got a bit heavy," Krause laughs.

Towards cognitive neuroscience

Still in 1997 Krause could squeeze in quite a few gigs with a rock band alongside her studies and research, but got gradually fed up with the constant late nights and feeling tired. And constant waiting, for that is what a musician's life often is. "But I have no regrets. Playing gave me so many different experiences."

At some stage, Krause ended up leading a music therapy group for the mentally handicapped. The job opened up the door to a whole new world, psychology. Krause applied for university, took a Master's degree in four years, and immediately afterwards, received a grant from the Academy of Finland for her doctorate. In 1996, Krause defended her dissertation at Åbo Akademi on the psychophysiology of memory, and that of music, too. The dissertation was awarded the highest grade, laudatur. Krause started as Professor of Cognitive Science in 2002.

"We know very little about the effect music has on the brain. Music is extremely complex as an object of study. For example, the word 'table' means more or less the same thing to everyone. But a fragment of melody can bring to mind completely different things to different people, depending on their musical training or tastes. Individual differences are the challenge for cognitive research." Currently, Krause is studying the biological basis of cognitive processes - memory, remembering different contents and linguistic processes - by measuring the electric activities in the brain.

Krause has abandoned playing almost completely since her move to Helsinki in 2000, when most of her playing mates stayed in Turku. She spends her free time doing weight training and yoga, the latter of which Krause started three years ago. "And if I have time, I still make music on my own with my computer."

Krause occasionally still throws a solo performance with her guitar, and BEAT also gets together for private performances. She is also involved in a country band called Kinos, which does gigs as often as the members, who all have day jobs and families, can.

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