Mellan provins och parnass : John Fernström i svenskt musikliv

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The Swedish composer John Fernström (1897-1961) wrote over 200 pieces in the genres of symphonic music, chamber music and vocal music for mixed choirs, male choirs and solo vocals accompanied by piano. He lived most of his life in the province of Scania, first working in Helsingborg from 1916­ 1939 as a violinist in Nordvästra Skånes Orkester- förening [the Northwest Scanian Orchestra], whereafter he moved to Malmö and worked as a freelance conductor and composer until 1943. In 1943 he moved to Lund, becoming the municipal music director in 1948, holding this position until his death.

The dissertation focuses primarily on Fernström's career as a composer. The aim is to understand the factors in his life and the context in which he worked which had an impact on this career. Pierre Bourdieu's concepts of fields (fields of social competition), cultural capital and habitus are used to explain Fernström's career in three different contexts: in the musical world of Helsingborg from 1916­39 (Part I with the title "Power and Music"); in the male choir movement from approximately 1928­55 (Part II "In the World of Male Choirs"); and in the Stockholm concert world from 1943­53 (Part III "Guest Performance on Mount Parnassus"). A representative sample of his music composed during those periods is also analysed.

Fernström's career proves to be a useful prism through which key features of Swedish musical life during the first half of the 1900s become visible. Using Fernström, it is possible to see the conditions in which the smaller and limited autonomous 'music fields' emerged in some of the provincial areas during this period. It also becomes easier to understand the tensions between provincial and national culture as well as to understand the rise of musical modernism in the late 1940's. His career can further be used to discuss the concepts of cultural capital and habitus and their applicability as explanatory concepts in analyzing the success of actors in a competitive cultural field.


  • Boel Lindberg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Musicology


  • career, symphonic music, vocal music, musical style 1920­1945, musical modernism, male choir, working menOEs choir, peopleOEs concerts, Bourdieu, cultural field, cultural capital, habitus, national culture, provincial culture, Composer, biography, musical t, Musicology, Musikvetenskap
Translated title of the contributionBetween province and parnassus. John Fernström in Swedish musical life
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1997 Sep 27
  • Arkiv
Print ISBNs91-7924-103-4
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1997-09-27 Time: 10:15 Place: Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Stockfelt, Ola Title: Docent Affiliation: Department of Musicology, Gothenburg ---