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Edward Cowie : Represented Artist

'My music is for those who love the sensation, structure, and SENSE of nature...'

Random Audio Sample: String quartet No. 4, Op. 31, No. 2 : string quartet by Edward Cowie, from the CD In Flight Music

Photo of Edward Cowie

Artist website: http://www.edward-cowie.com

Edward Cowie was born in Birmingham, England in 1943. Living mainly in rural England, his close association with the natural landscape has supported his combination of work as composer, painter and ornithologist.

In 1964 he studied under Peter Racine Fricker at Morley College, and then privately with Alexander Goehr. In 1971 he was awarded a bursary to travel to Poland where he studied with Witold Lutoslawski. In the same year he received the Radcliffe Award and a Gulbenkian Award for collaboration with the Ballet Rambert.

His work as composer, painter and scientist has flowered in a totally integrated manner. Since 1973 his compositions have been performed widely in Britain, Europe and Australia and he has been featured as central artist in a number of major festivals including the Brighton Festival (1980), the Leeds International Festival (1983) and the Adelaide Festival (1984). He has also gained increasing exhibitions as a painter with over 14 one man shows in America, Britain, Germany and Australia and continues to publish papers on special aspects of ornithology in scientific journals.

As a conductor, Cowie has conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philomusica of London, BBC Singers, the ABC symphony orchestras of Sydney, Adelaide, Tasmania, Queensland, and also the Seymour Group and the Australia Ensemble. His music has been featured in major festivals in Europe, the USA and Australia.

He has held the positions of Associate Professor of Composition, University of Lancaster, 1973-1983; Guest Professor, University of Kassel, West Germany, 1979 and Visiting Professor, University of Florida, 1978. From 1983 to 1988 he was appointed Professor and Head of the School of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong. In 1989, he took up the position of Professor and Director of the Australian Arts Fusion Centre at James Cook University, Townsville up to 1994.

In 1995, Cowie returned to England, and is now Professor and Director of Research at Dartington College of Arts in Devon. Since returning to England, he has rapidly re-established himself as a major composer on the British scene though continues to compose work influenced by his 12 years spent in Australia. He is currently the first BBC Composer in Association with the BBC Singers and is also the first Artist in Residence with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

He has signed an exclusive publication-contract with United Music Publishers in London. His first book on birds, Birds Talk, published in 2003, is available through its distributors, the RSPB.

Gaia, the first major commission from The BBC, was released on the BBC CD label in late 2003 and paired with a second BBC CD recording of his Gesangbuch of 1978.

Since 2006, Cowie has lived in his new home in SW France. He divides his time between compositional and visual work there and teaching, performing and recording in the UK.

He writes:

In general, critics have described my music as "complex-confused-derivative-highly original- colourful-masterly-dull-formally amorphous etc." The music has always arisen as a result of inspiration from observations of nature, the works of other artists, (especially painters), and from the nature of form itself. I have always believed that all of the arts languages are derived from central theories of form. As a result, my music does sometimes sound unpredictable and without clear formal direction. If this is an impression gained from some critics, it is certainly not the intention of my own way of forming musical compositions.

I assume that listeners to my music will love the 'works' of nature, and that they will hear within my works, 'echoes' from the world around us. I am unashamedly equally interested in tonality and atonality, and still believe that a 'line-point-bloc' approach to composition will create melody and harmony without regard for avant garde fashion, or the preconceptions of inhibited individuals. In recent times my music has become more introspective, and probably much tighter in form. I am now interested in form in its own right, and I am often composing through a contemplation of the formulation of 'information' and perception through sound.

I am deeply concerned with the relationships between both my paintings and music, yet retain a deep regard for the forces of nature upon my imagination. My music is for those who love the sensation, structure, and SENSE of nature, and an individual who denies the possibility of filtering the structure of the living world through a compositional process will remain outside the field of intellectual and sensual capture. Walking in spring woods with a well known critic in 1979, that critic was annoyed at my constant stopping to draw and record the landscape and the things that moved through it. "I simply like to walk", he said. Maybe we rush through life with so much preconceived information about art history that we cannot all yet see the wood for the leaves. Better to wish to see both, and in music, to be able to accept the dimensions of a fantasy which seeks to encapsulate existence through the order of the natural world!

Biography provided by the composer — current to November 2008

Teacher/Influence on

Rhonda Berry (1993)

Andrew Ford (1975 - 1978)

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Bell bird motet (vocal music) Commissioned by BBC.
Digital sheet music sample Queensland sweet, 1 : for recorder quartet (1991) Commissioned with funds from Northern Music UK
Digital sheet music sample Fifteen minute Australia : suite for youth orchestra (1984) Composed for the Merseyside Youth Orchestra as a part of the Composer in Residency with the R.L.P.O. Liverpool. U.K.