Harry Stafylakis


Brittle Fracture
for orchestra / / timp. + 3 perc. / hp / pno / strings
7 minutes

Premiered by the American Composers Orchestra, George Manahan conducting, at the 2014 New York Philharmonic Biennial.

Recording: performed by the FSU Symphony Orchestra, Matt Bishop conducting, at the 2015 Festival of New Music. Recorded live on Jan. 31, 2015 at Ruby Diamond Hall, Tallahassee, FL.

Score and parts available for rental (PDF or hard copy). Send an inquiry through the Contact page.

Brittle Fracture
for chamber orchestra (2013)
1111 / 1110 / 1 perc. / pno / strings (min. 11111)

Commissioned and performed by the CUNY Contemporary Music Ensemble (CME)

A full recording of the "chamber orchestra" version can be streamed below.

Recorded live by the CUNY Graduate Center Contemporary Music Ensemble, conducted by Whitney E. George, on June 15, 2013 in Elebash Hall, New York (live recording of World Premiere).

Score and parts available for rental (PDF or hard copy). Send an inquiry through the Contact page.

Program Notes

In the field of materials science, the study of fracture mechanics makes a fundamental distinction between fractures that occur at different levels of tensile stress. In the case of brittle fracture, there is little or no apparent plastic deformation before failure occurs; in other words, cracks travel so fast that it is often impossible to tell when the material will break.

Brittle Fracture for chamber orchestra attempts to depict this type of structural failure in musical terms. Inspired by modulation and temporal manipulation techniques commonly employed in pop music production, the piece is based on a simple four-note piano theme that is performed as if it were being processed through an echo unit. The piano’s resulting spectral content is selectively captured, extended, and transformed by the orchestral instruments, effectuating a long-range rhythmic, melodic, registral, articulative, and dynamic intensification. Throughout this textural crescendo, the music undergoes various types and degrees of stress that attempt to disrupt the constant musical flow. At the peak of the process the music finally buckles under its own weight, causing an abrupt rupture in the structure. A series of these fractures occurs, slicing between two contrasting musical surfaces until the inevitable and complete dissolution of their constituent materials.

This work was composed in 2013 as part of a residency with the CUNY Graduate Center’s Contemporary Music Ensemble. It received its premiere on May 8, 2013 in Elebash Hall, New York, with Whitney E. George conducting.

Brittle Fracture has been awarded a 2013 Sir Ernest MacMillan prize by the SOCAN Foundation. It was selected for the American Composers Orchestra's 2014 Underwood New Music Readings; its premiere was on June 7, 2014, led by George Manahan, and presented as part of the New York Philharmonic's 2014 Biennial.