Professor Tim Howell

Profile

Biography

Tim Howell specializes in the analysis of new music, especially from Finland. An internationally recognized authority on the music of Sibelius, his research has now broadened to encompass contemporary Finnish music as reflected in two major publications: After Sibelius: Studies in Finnish Music (Ashgate, 2006) and Kaija Saariaho: Visions, Narratives, Dialogues (Ashgate, September 2011).

After Sibelius: Studies in Finnish Music, the first survey of Finnish musical modernism in English, has been highly acclaimed. Music Research Forum described it as ‘an elegant, concise and penetrating work that places this music within a larger European context while addressing the difficult question of what is ‘Finnishness’ in music’.   Tim Howell provides an engaging investigation into Finnish music and combines elements of composer biography and detailed analysis within the broader context of cultural and national identity. The book consists of a collection of eight individual composer studies that investigate the historical position and compositional characteristics of a representative selection of leading figures, ranging from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day. These potentially self-contained studies subscribe to a larger picture, which explains the Sibelian legacy, the effect of this considerable influence on subsequent generations and its lasting consequences: an internationally acclaimed school of contemporary music.

Kaija Saariaho: Visions, Narratives, Dialogues (Edited by Tim Howell with Jon Hargreaves and Michael Rofe) is the first symposium book in English to be dedicated exclusively to this single figure. Scholars from both the UK and Saariaho’s native Finland bring a range of perspectives to her richly varied output. Uncovering the compositional, historical, cultural and sociological issues that have resulted in such critical acclaim lies at the heart of this collection of essays. Saariaho’s approach to composition is an inter-disciplinary one; it embraces a number of art forms – visual, literary and musical – in works that explore a creative dialogue between image, continuity and time.  The grouping of these essays into three main strands – ‘visions’, ‘narratives’ and ‘dialogues’ – reflects the wide range of Saariaho’s creative preoccupations while subscribing to a carefully structured succession of commentaries. 

Career

After graduating from Southampton University, Tim Howell studied with Professor Arnold Whittall for the MMus in Theory & Analysis at King's College, London, while working as an Editorial Assistant on The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Having gained the MMus with distinction, submitting a thesis on Sibelius' Tapiola, he pursued Doctoral Research on all the Symphonies and Tone-Poems of Sibelius at Southampton University, under the supervision of Professor Peter Evans, and held a visiting Research Fellowship at the University of Helsinki, working with Professor Erik Tawastsjerna. That thesis, Jean Sibelius: Progressive Techniques in the Symphonies and Tone-Poems, was published by Garland Press and led to numerous publications, conference contributions and visiting lectures – most notably at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Having taught at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the West London Institute of Higher Education, he joined the Music Department at York in 1986. Tim Howell contributed a chapter, 'Sibelius the Progressive', for the Cambridge University Press Sibelius Studies volume, was an editor and contributor to A Companion to Contemporary Musical Thought and has published articles in Music Analysis, The British Journal of Music Education, The Dutch Journal of Music Theory, Music and Letters, Finnish Music Quarterly and Tempo. He has regularly written reviews of music books for Music and Letters and the British Journal of Aesthetics.

Departmental roles

  • Chair, Graduate Studies
  • Chair, Research Students' Postgraduate Studies Sub-committee
  • Chair, Scholarships Committee

Research

Overview

  • Music analysis of 20th-century and contemporary music
  • The music of Sibelius
  • Finnish 20th-century music, notably: Merikanto, Bergman, Kokkonen, Heininen, Rautavaara, Sallinen, Saariaho and Lindberg
  • The music of Lotta Wennäkoski
  • Exploring the middle ground between analysis and performance

Projects

The Nature of Nordic Music

A delight in word-play is a characteristic trait in several Nordic countries. The Nature of Nordic Music adopts this idea, exploring the distinctive yet complementary understandings of the term ‘nature’. This book therefore sets out to define the basic or inherent features, characters and qualities of Nordic music – its essential ‘nature’ – on the one hand, whilst on the other it acknowledges the extent to which the phenomena of the physical world (its landscape, climate, environment) – the forces of ‘nature’ – both inspire and condition the creative process.  Experts have been assembled into a research group of 16 members, with representatives from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

  • Section I ‘Identities’ interrogates the term ‘Nordic’ given the distinctively individual nature of the five nations involved;  political, cultural, linguistic and musical identities, and their degrees of separation and combination, form a backdrop to the book as a whole.  ‘Nordicness’ is essentially an artificial construct, yet the strength of its world-wide appeal both informs and conditions the creative responses of individual musicians.
  • Section II ‘Images’ explores the so-called ‘Nordic brand’ which has become a highly-successful marketing tool, applied today to all musical genres despite its origins within the popular-music field. Any commercial strategy for creative endeavours can become a victim of its own success, and this potential backlash is viewed from several angles. What might at first have served as a stimulus for the production of music can become something of a limitation to later generations, and the effects of this development are charted here. 
  • Section III, ‘Environments’, allows the breadth of this concept to permit more tangential responses. From an engagement with artistic concerns about global warming, which has a particular resonance with the changing landscape of this Northerly region, more specific reactions to the manipulation of musical timescale arise. Temporal perceptions of stasis, lack of directionality, fixity-versus-movement, all emerge from the unique balance between dark and light that define the physical climate of the Nordic environment.

Contradictions and consistencies vie for our attention in this versatile assemblage of critiques and analysis, but what emerges most strongly is the enormous creative energy that epitomises the musical life of this part of the world. The success story of Nordic new music lies in its ability to communicate so effectively – and to such a far-reaching audience.  Just how this has come about, what its effect is, whether the larger world perceives there to be a distinctive ‘Nordic Sound’ are the broader questions that underpin this project.

From Score to Sound: engaging audiences with new music

The Score to Sound project aims to implement and evaluate an approach for engaging the public in twentieth and twenty-first-century British music, and is funded by the AHRC Cultural Engagement Fund. In partnership with Sound and Music (the UK’s charity for new music) the CMRC will facilitate three Discovery Days and concerts – concentrating on music chosen from the British Music Collection – in York, Huddersfield and London.

Tim Howell and Martin Scheuregger will deliver this project, with Martin designing and hosting the Discovery Days, and bringing with him contemporary music ensemble Dark Inventions, which he co-directs. Sound and Music will contribute a framework in which the project’s events will be evaluated. The result of the project will be threefold:

  • Discovery Days and concerts will provide an opportunity for audiences in three cities to explore this music;
  • a web resource and recordings will allow a worldwide audience to access similar content and will provide a framework within which similar projects can be delivered;
  • project evaluation with audience feedback will support other organisations to plan such events, ensuring the highest level of ongoing knowledge transfer.

Previous projects

Guest Editor: Contemporary Music Review

‘Musical Narratives: Studies in Time & Motion’

The central theme of this volume concerns the variety of ways in which a number of composers engage with the concept of musical timescale. After all, temporal processes lie at the heart of contemporary compositional practice. An introductory article, by way of a broad study of the physical theories of musical time (Michael Rofe), is followed by an overview of how this relates to new music in Finland, through a consideration of selected orchestral works by Magnus Lindberg (Tim Howell). Thereafter, a series of case studies focus on particular aspects of timescale as relevant to these individual composers. The issues being addressed include: ‘speed and slowness’ in Gerald Barry (Daniel March); ‘continuity’ in John Adams (Richard Powell); ‘fragmentation’ in György Kurtág (Martin Scheuregger), and ‘balance’ in Toru Takemitsu (Mark Hutchinson).  All contributors are associated with the Department of Music and the volume was published in August 2014, in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Department in 2015.


Research Project: ANEMONE (with financial support from the Nordic Culture Fund)

 

The exploration of A NEw Music Of Northern Europe is the basis of this research project. ANEMONE sets out to investigate the musical characteristics and achievements of a network of Nordic countries – Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland – within the contemporary music scene. It embraces not only art-music, but also jazz, folk and popular styles, tracking internationally-recognised musical innovation in whatever genre, over the last 100 years or so. Beyond discussing and evaluating that corpus of music in itself, the broader context of cultural and national identity needs an in-depth consideration. Ultimately, ANEMONE will ask: is there a distinctively ‘Nordic’ musical style?

Funding from the Nordic Culture Point helped to establish a research group of North-European scholars with expertise in the musics from each of these five Nordic countries, and this will result in a collaborative publication.

Grants

  • From Score to Sound: engaging audiences with new music
    £50,000, Arts and Humanities Research Council (February 2016-May 2016)
  • ANEMONE project
    60,000DKK, Nordic Culture Fund (October 2014-March 2015)
  • Research grant for the initial investigation of the After Sibelius: Studies in Finnish Music project
    Arts & Humanities Research Board (September 1999)

Supervision

Tim Howell supervises work that engages with the analysis of twentieth-century and contemporary music; composer case-studies have included music by Adès, Berio, Crumb,  Dallapiccola, Debussy, Dutilleux, Ives, Kurtág, Ligeti, Lindberg, Ravel, Saariaho, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Takemitsu.

Publications

Full publications list

Single-authored Books

  • Howell, Tim: Jean Sibelius: Progressive Techniques in the Symphonies and Tone-Poems, (Ph.D thesis, University of Southampton, 1985); published in the ‘Outstanding Dissertations in Music from British Universities’ Series, New York: Garland Press, 1989.
  • ——— : After Sibelius: Studies in Finnish Music, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2006.

Edited Books and Journals

  • Ed. John Paynter, Tim Howell, Peter Seymour & Richard Orton (1992): A Companion to Contemporary Musical Thought, Vol. 2, Section III: ‘The Structure of Music’ London: Routledge (623–910), 1992.
  • Ed. Tim Howell, with Jon Hargreaves and Michael Rofe: Kaija Saariaho: Visions, Narratives, Dialogues, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, September 2011.
  • Ed. Tim Howell: ‘Musical Narratives: Studies in Time & Motion’, Contemporary Music Review, Vol.33 No.4 (337–448), December 2014
  • Tim Howell, Daniel Grimley,Veijo Murtomäki, Timo Virtanen (Eds.) Jean Sibelius’ Legacy – Research at his 150th Anniversary, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, July 2017

Chapters in Books

  • Howell, Tim: ‘Analysis and Performance: The Search for a Middleground’ , Ed. John Paynter, Tim Howell, Peter Seymour & Richard Orton, A Companion to Contemporary Musical Thought, London: Routledge (692–714), 1992.
  • ——— : ‘Sibelius and the Fourth Dimension’, Sibelius-Akatemian Aikakauskirja, Helsinki: Sibelius Academy, Department of Composition and Music Theory (97–113), 1993.
  • ——— : ‘Eisler’s Serialism: Concepts and Methods’, Eisler – A Miscellany, Ed. David Blake, London: Gordon and Breach (103–132), 1995
  • ——— : ‘The Practical Project’, Ed. Jennifer Barnes, Making Music Work – The Professional Integration Project, London: Royal College of Music Publications (51–57), 1999.
  • ——— :  ‘Freedom of Choice: Project-based Learning’, Ed. Jennifer Barnes, Making Music Work – The Professional Integration Project, London: Royal College of Music Publications (73–84), 1999.
  • ——— :‘Sibelius the Progressive’ , Ed. Timothy Jackson & Veijo Murtomaki, Sibelius Studies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (35–57), 2001.
  • ——— : ‘Preludes and Codas’ , Ed. Tim Howell, with Jon Hargreaves and Michael Rofe: Kaija Saariaho: Visions, Narratives, Dialogues, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd (2011) .
  • ——— : ‘Dualities and Dialogues: Saariaho’s Concertos’, Ed. Tim Howell, with Jon Hargreaves and Michael Rofe: Kaija Saariaho: Visions, Narratives, Dialogues, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd (2011).
  • ——— : ‘Jean Sibelius: Progressive or Modernist?’ in Tim Howell, Daniel Grimley, Veijo Murtomäki, Timo Virtanen (Eds.) Jean Sibelius’ Legacy – Research at his 150th Anniversary, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge Scholars Press (241–256), 2017.

Journal Articles

  • Howell, Tim: 'Sibelius Studies & Notions of Expertise', Music Analysis , Vol. 14  No.2/3, (315–40), 1995.
  • ——— : 'Music Analysis: Back to basics?', British Journal of Music Education, Vol.13 (123–134), June 1996.
  • ——— : 'Restricting the Flow: Elements of Timescale in Sibelius’ Sixth Symphony', Dutch Journal of Music Theory,  Vol.5 No.2. (89–100), May 2000.
  • ——— : 'The Timeless Quality of Finnish Modernism', Finnish Music Quarterly, Vol. 4 (52–56), December 2006.
  • ——— : 'Notes from Abroad: Some Finn to Shout About', Finnish Music Quarterly, Vol. 4 (50–52), December 2009.
  • ——— : 'Erik Bergman 100: The Legacy of a Modernist', Finnish Music Quarterly, Vol. 4 (38-42), December 2011.
  • ——— : 'Out of the Shadows and Silences: Lotta Wennäkoski in Profile', Tempo, Vol. 66 No. 259 (2-15), January 2012.
  • ——— : 'Bergman’s Modernism: The End of a Beginning', Musiikki, the Journal of the Finnish Musicological Association, Vol. 1 (77-86), June 2012.
  • ——— : 'Brahms, Kierkegaarde and Repetition: Three Intermezzi', Nineteenth-Century Music Review,Vol.10,Issue 1 (101-117), June 2013.
  • ——— : 'Magnus Lindberg: Narratives of Time and Space', Contemporary Music Review, Vol.33 No.4 (337–448), December 2014

Published Conference Papers

  • Howell, Tim: ‘Two Versions of the Fifth Symphony: A Study in Compositional Process’ in Eero Tarasti (ed.), Proceedings from the First International Jean Sibelius Conference, August, 1990, Helsinki: Sibelius Academy, Department of Composition and Music Theory (74–87), 1995.
  • ——— : ‘Sibelius’ Tapiola: Issues of Tonality and Timescale’, in Sibelius Forum: Proceedings from the Second International Jean Sibelius Conference, November 1995,  Helsinki: Sibelius Academy, Department of Composition and Music Theory (237–46), 1998.
  • ——— : ‘A Shadow, An Aura and Some Notes on Light: Re-defining the Sibelius Legacy’, Fifth International Sibelius Conference, University of Oxford, September 2010.
  • ——— : ‘Bergman’s Modernism: Colours & improvisation; coherence & integration’, Erik Bergman 100 Symposium, Åbo University, Turku, Finland (September 2011)

Other Outputs

  • Howell, Tim: ‘Sibelius’ Tapiola: The Full Monty’, Paper at the British Musicological Societies’ Conference, University of Surrey, July 1999.
  • ——— : ‘A Taste of Finns to Come’, Postgraduate Research Seminar, Department of Music, University of York, October 2006.
  • ——— : BBC Radio 3 – Music Matters: Finland Special; Invited interview with Tom Service, Radio 3 Broadcast: 17th March 2007 (12.15-13.00).
  • ——— : ‘Stravinsky’s Style: Is Oedipus Complex?’, Invited lecture, London Symphony Orchestra Discovery Day, London, LSO ST Luke’s, May 2007.
  • ——— : ‘Migrating Swans and Pure Cold Water: Sibelius’ Symphonies 5 and 6’, Invited pre-concert talk for the Sibelius Unbound Festival, (Concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen), London: Barbican,  November 2007.
  • ——— : ‘Forming the New from the Old: Rautavaarra’s Perspectives on Modernism’, Invited lecture at the Rautavaara, Heininen, Modernisimi Conference, Helsinki: Sibelius Academy, October 2008.
  • ——— : ‘Finns Can Only Get Better: Some Thoughts on Music After Sibelius’, Invited Lecture for the Graduate Colloquia Series, Faculty of Music, University of Oxford, March 2009.
  • ——— :  ‘Finlandia and beyond: the Making of a Musical Nation, Invited lecture, Derwent College Senior Common Room, University of York, February 2011.
  • ——— : ‘Composer of the Week: Finland’ Invited BBC Radio 3 Consultancy and Interview (with Donald Macleod),  Broadcast: October 24th-28th 2011 at 12.00-13.00, repeated 18.30 – 19.30). The five programmes are based around the following themes: (i) Founding Fathers (and later echoes); (ii) Towards Independence; (iii) The Kalevala; (iv) Opening Windows to Europe; (v) Finland and the Natural World; they are all available on Podcast.
  • ——— : ‘Sibelius’ Symphony No 7: Contrasts, Compression and Unity’, Invited pre-concert talk for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, (Conductor: Donald Runnicles), Glasgow: City Halls, February 2015.
  • ——— : ‘Is Jean Sibelius Finland’s Greatest Composer?’, Invited live radio discussion programme, Talking Histories, Irish National Radio (November 30th. 2015); available podcast at: https://www.newstalk.com/podcasts/Talking_History/

 Selected Reviews

  • Hugo Wolf's Lieder and Extensions of Tonality by Deborah J. Stein, Music Analysis, Vol.7, No. 1 (93–99), March 1988
  • Ronde for Isolde by David Bedford, Music and Letters, Vol. 72, No.2 (343–44), May 1991.
  • Coptic Light by Morton Feldman,   Music and Letters, Vol. 72, No.2 (346–47), May 1991.
  • Trackings by Richard Dufallo, Music and Letters, Vol. 72, No.2 (316–317), May 1991.
  • Béla Bartók: Composition, Concepts & Autograph Sources, by Lásló Somfai, Berkely & Los Angeles: University of California Press, British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol.38, No. 2 (211–214), April 1998.
  • Narrating with Twelve Tones: Einojuhani Rautavaara's First Serial Period (ca. 1957-1965) by Anne Sivuoja-Gunaratnam, Music and Letters, Vol. 80, No.3 (491–493), August 1999.
  • The Cambridge Companion to Sibelius, Ed. Daniel M. Grimley, Cambridge: CUP, Music and Letters, Vol. 86, No.2 (306–309), May 2005.
  • The Cambridge Companion to Stravinsky, Ed. Jonathan Cross,Cambridge: CUP, Music and Letters, Vol. 86, No. 3 (501–503), August 2005.
  • The Music of Joonas Kokkonen , by Edward Jurkowski, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.,  Music & Letters, Vol. 87, No.3 (473 – 476), June 2006.
  • Sibelius: A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland , by Glenda Dawn Goss, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, Music & Letters, Vol. 92, No. 4 (669-671), November 2011.
  • Jean Sibelius and His World, Ed. Daniel Grimley, Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, Vol.10, Issue 2 (332-335), December 2013.

Teaching

Undergraduate

  • Introduction to Musical Analysis
  • Stravinsky
  • Debussy
  • Brahms
  • Sibelius
  • The Concerto (Mozart to the present day)
  • Finnish Modern Music

Postgraduate

PhD/MPhil

Tim Howell supervises research students whose work engages with the analysis of twentieth-century and contemporary music; composer case-studies have included music by Adès, Berio, Crumb,  Dallapiccola, Debussy,  Dutilleux, Ives, Kurtág, Ligeti, Lindberg, Ravel, Saariaho, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Takemitsu.

Other teaching

Tim Howell received a Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Award in 2008 in recognition of the excellence of his contribution to teaching and learning.

Dr Tim Howell

Contact details

Prof. Tim Howell
Department of Music
University of York
Heslington
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 2433