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Edwards, Ross (b1943)
© David Roche

Ross Edwards

born: 1943
country: Australia

One of Australia’s best known and most performed composers, Ross Edwards AM has created a distinctive sound world aligned with principles of deep ecology while seeking to reconnect music with elemental forces and restore its traditional association with ritual and dance. His music, universal in that it is concerned with age-old mysteries surrounding humanity, is at the same time deeply connected to its roots in Australia, whose cultural diversity it celebrates, and from whose natural environment it draws inspiration, especially birdsong and the mysterious rhythms and drones of insects.

As a student at the Universities of Sydney and Adelaide, Edwards was fortunate in having among his teachers such luminaries as Richard Meale, Sándor Veress, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, with whom he later undertook postgraduate studies in London. During university vacations he was as an assistant to Peter Sculthorpe, gaining valuable insight into the working life of a composer. Returning to Australia, he became a lecturer in The Sydney Conservatorium’s School of Composition, remaining there until 1980, when he began to freelance as a composer. For seven years he and his wife Helen, a piano teacher, lived with their two children in the coastal village of Pearl Beach, north of Sydney, a crucial time for Edwards as the sound world of the adjacent national park had a profound influence on the formation of his musical language. Today he is based in Sydney where he is an Honorary Adjunct Professor of Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium.

Reclusive by nature, Edwards has been less interested in following a conventional career path than with responding to the inner dictates of his vocation. Far from being isolationist, however, his music is widely performed and represented at major international music festivals. Today, its surface reflects an eclectic outlook with oblique references to many universal cultural symbols in what he describes as an 'intuitive search for unity within diversity'. Some of his works for the concert hall allow for an optional visual component, notably his Fourth Symphony, Star Chant; others—such as the instrumental concertos Bird Spirit Dreaming, Full Moon Dances and Frog and Star Cycle—for lighting, movement and costume. His Dawn Mantras greeted the new millennium in a global telecast from the sails of the Sydney Opera House to universal acclaim. Recent works include Zodiac, for the Houston Ballet, Dances of Life and Death for the Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony; Singing the Love, for The Choir of King’s College Cambridge; Four Inscapes, for the Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival and Vespers for Mother Earth, a large scale work for voices and instruments commissioned by the Judith Neilson Institute of Sydney.

Ross Edwards’ music is published globally by G Schirmer Australia Pty Ltd, a part of Wise Music Group.


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