Edward Cowie’s first BBC Proms commission was Leviathan, a large-scale orchestral work premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1975. It marked the first major event in a career that was to gain him national and international recognition for a new kind of voice in the music world. Throughout the 1970s and beyond, a stream of works inspired by wild places flowed into being, such as his sumptuous Gesangbuch, Mount Keira Duets and his choral symphony Symphonies of Rain, Steam and Speed. This immersion in the study of nature continues to form the core of his fertile imagination today.
Two further strands underpin and inspire Cowie’s musical practice and ideas. His undergraduate studies in physics and practical studies in painting have been integrated into a ‘fusion-world’ of ideas where science, the visual arts and music coalesce in a creative continuum. Recently he has increasingly worked towards his music by means of ‘field studies’, theoretical research and painting-drawing. His monumental solo piano series Rutherford’s Lights was inspired by a study of the relationships between theories of light and colour, and his Particle Partita for solo violin acts as a sonic timeline of the history of particle physics.
These ‘fusions’ of disciplines, the bridges between study and practice, are an essential part of the composer’s quest for new ways of forming. As Composer in Association with the BBC Singers (2002-05), Cowie produced several large- and small-scale pieces that moved through landscapes and natural habitats from all over the world. Gaia, INhabitAT, Lyre Bird Motet and Bell Bird Motet are classic examples of a music that engages with all of the senses in a profound respect for nature’s power to move us.