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In his introduction to this book of nine essays on the Finnish composer, Howell says her music ‘communicates widely, reaching a refreshingly broad audience’, an ‘achievement […] that merits careful consideration’. Correspondingly, as editor he has taken steps to try and avoid making the book off-putting to the general reader. Including an interview with the composer herself is a good start, one that steers it away at the outset from being overly academic.

The range of subjects addressed is broad enough. However, the book does find itself in something of a between-two-stools predicament, one that Howell himself seems to admit in his jokey admission that ‘every chapter is designed to be readable at a single sitting (though, in some cases you may need a lie-down afterwards).’

So there are plenty of detailed diagrams and excerpts of scores, as infuriating to the general reader as they may be informative to those interested in formal architecture and compositional procedures. And there is plenty of descriptive commentary – enhanced or advanced programme note material that is useful as a guide but, in the end, only goes so far.

Other essays draw on other disciplines. Anni Oskala’s piece on dream theory and Saariaho’s music, takes a ‘lit crit’ approach, but could have been more critical. Taina Riikonen’s study of the flute and the flautist draws in part on topics in gender studies – some may object to its more speculative character, but it is also the one essay to deal in any depth with the performer’s role and art, a reminder that analytical musicology does have a tendency to ignore the audible part of music. Indeed, Vesa Kankanpää, in his examination of the role of timbre and harmony in Saariaho’s work, makes the very point that she is [author’s italics] ‘a composer for whom that which is sensory – what is actually heard – is central.’

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