EDWARD COWIE (b.1943): Gesangbuch for Chorus and 13 Instruments (Endymion; Simon Joly), Bell Bird Motet for Chamber Choir, The Soft Complaining Flute for 6 Sopranos and Baroque Flute (Stephen Preston [flute]), Lyre Bird Motet for Chamber Choir.
Catalogue Number: 10P070
Description: Cowie's very individual voice, with his imitations of nature sounds and conjuring of the moods and atmospheres of the natural world, has distinguished his output throughout his career, and these pieces, spanning some 35 years, display all the usual characteristics. Typically, Cowie employs a vocabulary based on tonal referents, which is then embellished with a wealth of heterophonic detail, which often extends to literal imitation of birds and animals, microtones and extended vocal and instrumental techniques, creating a collage of organic elements strikingly analogous to his vibrant graphic works, some of which are reproduced in the booklet. The two Motets conjure the dim, magical light of dawn and twilight, with bird, frog and insect sounds an equal component of the music to the more conventional choral polyphony. The Soft Complaining Flute sets Dryden's text, with vocalizations and syllabic decorations, over a complicated flute part involving complex and unusual extended techniques, which take center stage in an extended cadenza. Echoes of Baroque mannerisms subtly recall Handel's setting of the text. Gesangbuch is a cycle that progresses through the seasons, with fragments of text from Goethe and Baudelaire, as well as descriptive words and names sometimes broken down into syllables to become part of the acoustic tapestry, or muttered or whispered as a coloristic element of the instrumental timbre. The evocations of the vivid colors of autumn leaves in sunshine, the monochromatic winter landscape under lowering skies and chill air, the complex burgeoning of life in springtime and the final radiant moonrise over estuarine sandbanks, complete with wading birds, are extraordinarily immersive and compelling. Listened to as conventional music - which is an integral component of Cowie's vocabulary - this is strange, avant garde stuff; but as a kind of sculptural, graphic art molded from sound it achieves as effortless an accessibility as a landscape viewed from some ideal vantage point. BBC Singers; Stephen Cleobury.