Los Angeles, CA: Aris' Chasing the Mouflon - a work for guitar and string quartet - premiered on April 20th, 2023, at the Alfred Newman Recital Hall of the Thornton School of Music (USC). The piece was commissioned by brilliant guitarist and Doctor of the Musical Arts candidate Joseph Douglass, one of Aris' long-time collaborators. Douglass was joined on stage by a powerful quartet of young musicians: Luis Angel Morales (Violin I), Maya Masaoka (Violin II), Paulina Flores (Viola), and Andrew Siehr (Violoncello). Aris traveled to LA and attended the premiere.
The piece was performed as part of a recital entitled Oikoumene - a concert dedicated to chamber music featuring the guitar, organized by Mr. Douglass - alongside works written by musical giants, such as Fr. Schubert, J. Dowland, I. Stravinsky, and others. Chasing the Mouflon was the last piece in the concert and was very well received by the audience, who gave the performers, and the piece, a lengthy, warm applause.
About the music: The mouflon (Ovis gmelini ophion) is a wild sheep native to Cyprus and is considered the ancestor of all modern domestic sheep breeds. This strictly protected species can be spotted in some of the island's most sequestered mountains and forests. Mouflons are fascinating animals that are notoriously mischievous, exceptionally good at hiding, and greatly enjoy fighting with each other. The mouflon is considered the national animal of Cyprus, and as a symbol, it embodies both the natural beauty of the island and the sprightly temperament of its islanders. The composer mentioned that this symbolic representation of his homeland, Cyprus, became the source of inspiration for Chasing the Mouflon. The music is heavily influenced by Mediterranean folk rhythms and idioms and, as such, employs frequent meter changes, guitar passages that reminisce folk instruments like the lute or the oud, as well as fiddle-like passages for the strings. Furthermore, the form of the piece consists of variably contrasting sections and subsections that reflect the highly diverse natural landscapes that can be found on the island. The piece also explores the special relationship that exists between the guitar and the string quartet: when the quartet instruments are plucked, their sound profile is very close to that of the guitar; on the contrary, when bowed, their sound profile is very dissimilar. This persistent, almost concerto-like idea of ‘agreement vs. quarrel’ between the musical forces, the meter, and the form itself, forms the basis of this composition.
"Writing for guitar can be a very intriguing experience, especially for a non-guitarist like me, and one is not often given the opportunity to write a chamber work for this fascinating instrument."
When asked about his work, Aris replied, "... [the piece] is dedicated to my good friend, long-time collaborator, and incredible guitarist Joseph Douglass. Writing for guitar can be a very intriguing experience, especially for a non-guitarist like me, and one is not often given the opportunity to write a chamber work for this fascinating instrument. I would, therefore, like to thank Joseph for creating this lovely opportunity, and I would also like to extend my gratitude both to him and his mentor, Prof. William Kanengiser, for their invaluable insight and advice regarding my guitar writing – they truly helped make this piece more idiomatic for the instrument. Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank all the string quartet members for their time and hard work."
There are plans for a commercial recording of Chasing the Mouflon in the near future. The score and parts will also be available for purchase soon on Aris' website.