solo for 10-string guitar and 6-string guitar
Jonathan Leathwood commissioned Oxen of the Sun to exploit the possibilities of playing the ten-string guitar and the six-string guitar simultaneously. Through the collaboration we gradually uncovered a wide palette of new textures, techniques and colours, many of which found their way into the final version of the piece.
The sixteen open strings suggested Orpheus’s lyre to me (according to mythology, Orpheus’s lyre had nine strings, and Apollo’s seven, coincidentally totalling sixteen). Orpheus was the first movement to be written and for the inital sixteen bars only open strings are played. I decided very early on that this gentle, slow perpetual motion would be the centrepiece of the work. I surrounded it with two sets of three pieces, all based on stories from Ovid’s and Homer’s retellings of Greek mythology. One set also refers to James Joyce’s Ulysses (Sirens, Aeolus, Circe) and the other uses motivic material from Britten’s Metamorphoses after Ovid for solo oboe (Pan, Arethusa, Narcissus). The title, Oxen of the Sun, is taken from chapter 11 of Joyce’s Ulysses.