There’s Music in the Air


I love music. Like many of the other passengers packed into the tunnelbana (subway train) on weekday mornings, racing—sophisticatedly-clad, no less—to their day jobs near Kungsträdgården,  I, too, can usually be spotted with those signature white Apple headphones in my ear listening to a soundtrack that shuffles from The Mowgli’s to Rossini to Alesso and Avicii (I’d guess I’m somewhere between the sixth and seventh biggest EDM fan in the world).

IMG_0055Stockholm is indisputably the music capital of northern Europe, and its clandestine cultural czars—the unnamed cohort who post literally hundreds of advertisements for music festivals and concerts all over the T-stations and storefronts—want you to know it.

It’s no surprise, then, that Spotify’s headquarters is a short 10-minute walk from SSE. If I could backflip, I probably would have done one when I found out. I remember walking past their building—Birger Jarlsgatan 61—during my Scandinavian Art & Architecture class in early September. It was almost surreal to be within steps of a technology company that produces a service that millions of people around the world use—no exaggeration—on an infinite basis.

The festivals and concerts aren’t the only place where music exists in Stockholm. In an odd sort of way, I find that a certain harmony hangs over the city as well. Every time I describe Stockholm to my friends and family, the same word invariably makes its way into my text messages and emails: “serene.” Everything here is so serene, orderly, organized. Life operates at a slower pace here, and the Swedish concept of “lagom” (meaning, loosely, “just enough”) palpably permeates every facet of life.

I can hear my thoughts here in a way that’s nearly impossible back at school in the U.S. I think that’s the part of my experience I’ll miss most. That, and the kardemummabullar (cardamon cinnamon buns). I feel like I’ve stepped into a symphonic idyll, this almost-imaginary way of life where every pedestrian obeys the traffic lights and happy moms and dads cart their newborns along to one of Stockholm’s 18 Åhléns department stores to shop the latest fall fashions. Like New York or London with the volume turned down, something about this city flows in a controlled, sophisticated, lyrical sense.

Phillip M. Musey
Harvard University
Fall 2015