Laura Chislett flutes
Edward Cowie piano

métier  mex 77121

Menurida is the Latin family name of the Australian Lyrebird. From there comes the name of the flute and piano duo bringing together Australian flute virtuoso Laura Chislett and composer Edward Cowie, born in England in 1943, now living in Australia. Cowie is a composer, author, natural scientist and painter. His wife Heather is also a talented painter. 

The second last piece, Lake Eacham Blue, is inspired by her art works.  All Cowie’s life experiences and interests come together somewhere across the eight highly pictorial pieces on the CD. Since these were recorded as dual improvisations, both performers can be regarded as composers of the music, although the CD does include a piece each for solo flute and solo piano. The title In Two Minds suggests the individual imaginings of the two performer/composers who are married to their proficiency in well-blended duo playing.

Natural landscape, especially birdsong lie at the heart of Cowie’s music. Both are to be found in the opening piece, Pre-Dawn and Dawn: Australian Bell Birds. The forest atmosphere is conjured up by slow dark flute tones and piano chords. As daylight comes, forest creatures awake and eventually piano and flute give out the bell-like peeps of the Bell Birds.

Being himself a painter, Cowie understands Kandinsky’s techniques of ‘Point and Line to Plane’, and in Guten Morgen, Herr Kandinsky, both flute and piano give us just that. Low flute and breath sounds with scraped strings on piano depict Boom Time – Bitterns at Leighton Moss. Lines of music, simple, then becoming more and more twisted and abstract, suggest the paintings of Mark Rothco and Jackson Pollock. 

With Ornitharia for solo flute Laura Chislett evokes attractive sounds of magpie and butcher birds. Edward Cowie’s solo piano is splendidly colourful in Stonehenge Thunderstorm and Skylark. The final two pieces are attractive nocturnes. There are birdsongs, but not what we would call melodies.

Our two composers lay down sounds like a painter lays colour on a canvas. You need to listen to every detail of the actual sounds, even the dying away of piano chords, in order to appreciate the pictures created by the music. Laura uses fascinating avant-garde techniques, including whistling into the flute while playing, reminding me of the Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino.

Review by Alan Cooper