Aris Carastathis (b. Athens, Greece, May 25, 1957 ) received his early musical training at Attica Conservatory in Athens, Greece and completed his Bachelor and Master degrees in music at the University of Northern Iowa. He graduated with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Louisiana State University in 1988 where he studied with Dr. Dinos Constantinides. Carastathis is Professor of Theory/Composition and Director of the New Music Ensemble at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario. He is an Associate Composer and Voting Member of the Canadian Music Centre, an elected member of the Greek Composers Union and has served as Artistic Director and President of New Music North. He has been Chair of the Standing Committee of Institutional Members (1999-2001) and Treasurer ( 2010-2013) of the Canadian University Music Society, and has served three terms as Chair of the Lakehead University Department of Music (1994-2001, 2004-2007 and 2016-2022).
Carastathis' first acknowledged work, Four Songs for soprano and piano, dates from 1979 and he has since produced over one hundred works for a wide variety of media, from symphonic to chamber as well as electronic music. Carastathis' works have been performed in Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kazakhstan, Poland, Serbia and the U.S., including performances at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York. His music has been broadcast on American (PBS) and Canadian (CBC) radio. He has received commissions from the Canadian Music Centre, Music Canada 2000 Festival Inc., Algoma Fall Festival, Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, Lakehead University Centre for Northern Studies, Norman Burgess Memorial Fund, Louisiana Sinfonietta, Acadia Trio, Louisiana State University New Music Ensemble, Louisiana Composers' Guild, and Baton Rouge Symphony Chamber Orchestra, as well as a number of individual artists and music organizations.
His composition Four Vignettes for guitar appears on a CD of guitar music titled Americas (Acoma GXD-5736), released in 2000. In 2003 his work Contortions was included on a double CD of 21 new works for solo flute that was recorded in Athens, Greece and produced by Magni Publications (MP-0002) in Baton Rouge. Carastathis' orchestral work Partly True Mostly Fiction: A Tribute to J. S. Bach was commissioned by maestro Geoffrey Moull and premiered by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra on January 28, 2003 and was released on CD in September 2004 performed by the TBSO. His composition Variables for clarinet was released on CD in 2006 by Clef Records (Edmonton Composers' Concert Society label) and his electroacoustic work Full of Stars is included in the Cult Figures CD released on the Centredisc label in 2008. Halcyons for oboe, cello and piano is featured on the New Music North-first recording CD released in 2008 and Traces for piano is included in a CD titled Small is Beautiful: Miniature Piano Pieces (2009) and Miniature IV included on Centredisc CD Umbra Septentrionis - the Shadow of the North (2017) performed by Yoko Hirota, piano. Recent award-winning Sarton and Phasma Music recordings include compositions such as Three Moods of Summer (2016) for flute and piano performed by Iwona Glinka, flute and Vicky Stylianou, piano, Contortions (2016), Tweet (2012), Stargaze (2016), and Unknown (2017), Silver Pieces (2019), Lament for Antoniou (2021) all performed by Iwona Glinka on flute, as well as In the Light of an Invisible Moon (2018) performed by Iwona Glinka, flute and Anna Sikorzak-Olek, harp, and String Quartet (2020) performed by the ÉxQuartet.
A major work, a Concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra was premiered by Stathis Mavrommatis, saxophone and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra on February 10, 2009, and his commissioned work Encounters for viola and piano (Norman Burgess memorial fund commission) was premiered in Toronto on July 18, 2009. Other more recent premieres of commissioned works include Bitter Land for violin and piano (Thunder Bay 2013), River for chamber ensemble (Minneapolis, 2012), Tweet for flute (Athens, 2012), Interchanges for percussion and piano (Winnipeg 2011) Light and Shadow for orchestra (Baton Rouge 2014), Last Journey for ensemble (Minneapolis 2017), Impact for two percussionists (Thunder Bay 2017), Stargaze and Unknown for flute (Athens 2017), Partly True, Mostly Fiction for orchestra (Athens 2017), Refractions for saxophone (Chicago 2018). Most recent premieres include Unknown for alto and bass flutes (Athens 2017) performed by Iwona Glinka, alto flute and Renata Guzig bass flute, Time Suspended and Time Lost for piano performed by Evgeny Chugunov, piano (Thunder Bay 2023). Several of Carastathis' works are published by Universal Edition, the Canadian Music Centre, Conners Publications, Natchitoches, Louisiana, Phorminx Editions, Thunder Bay, and Acoma/Nambe Editions, Toronto. Many of his works are available through the Canadian Music Centre Distribution Service. His music has been broadcast by classical music radio stations in the USA, Canada, and Greece and recordings are available on Naxos Music Library Apple Music, Spotify, and other music distribution platforms.
Carastathis' compositional style has gone through various transformations. Early works are strictly atonal with heavy emphasis on serial models. Newer works display a mixture of atonal and tonal idioms with an underlying modal quality. Conventional harmonies coexist with, emerge from or result to pitch-mass sonorities. Counterpoint of instrumental timbres play an important role in all of the composer's orchestral works. Carastathis favours non-symmetrical rhythmic designs with abrupt dynamic changes and extensive use of syncopation. Folk elements often appear in his more recent works. His latest interests include integration of elecroacoustic composition and computer art/animation. Representative works are Cubismos, Water Colour and Full of Stars and Lost at Sea with video art by Mark Nisenholt.