Edward Cowie was born in Birmingham, England in 1943. Most of his early life, however, was spent in rural countryside; Suffolk and the Cotswolds in particular. These early years in quiet natural landscapes were major influences on a life that has always been deeply affected and influenced by the forces of Nature. He studied the violin and piano whilst still at school and by the age of thirteen was already composing. Even during his studies for a first degree in physics in London, he continued studies in composition and, in 1964 began serious studies with Alexander Goehr. He also studied painting at the Slade as an external student.
By the late 1960’s, Cowie was working mainly as a composer, and some of his early works were finding their way onto professional platforms such as the Edinburgh Festival in 1969. In 1971, he was awarded a Chopin Fellowship to study under Witold Lutoslawski in Poland, and also came under the influence of Sir Michael Tippett, the latter remaining a close friend and mentor.
Cowie’s career as a composer was firmly established with the premiere of his BBC Prom Commission, Leviathan, which was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 1975. From then on his music began to appear in major festivals. His early works, available on Hyperion and ASV recordings, are published by Chester and Schott London. The Australian works are available through the Australian Music Centre and his music is now published exclusively by United Music Publishers.
His music continues to be featured in festivals throughout the world and is regularly recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio3. His recent work for the BBC Singers, National Portraits, was short-listed for the 2007 British Composer, Radio 3 Listeners’ Award.
Simultaneous with his composing career, Cowie has held major professorships in Australia, Germany, the USA and England. As a public speaker, he has always been in demand and has given The Ruskin Lecture at Oxford, The Gertrude Langer Memorial Lecture in Australia, and the Kate Springett Memorial Lecture (on birds as composers), in London in 2003.
He now lives and works in both Devon and France, with his visual-artist wife, Heather Cowie. He holds a personal chair in research at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, where he continues to supervise postgraduates in music, the fine arts and arts/science.