Harry Stafylakis


Calibrating Friction
for 7 players (2016)
flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, and drum set (ensemble amplified)
10 minutes

Performed by the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Timothy Weiss conducting (Donald Crockett, additional rehearsal conductor).

Recorded live on August 8, 2016 at Harris Hall, Aspen, Colorado, USA. Recorded by Adam Borecki; editing, mixing, and mastering by Adam Pietrykowski.

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

Program notes

“Free societies...are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom's existence.”
— Salman Rushdie

Kinetic friction is the force resisting the relative motion of solid surfaces, fluid layers, and material elements sliding against each other. In liquids, fluid layers move against each other, determining the viscosity of the material. The atoms inside a solid material can experience friction as well; when a solid block of metal gets compressed, all the atoms inside the material move, creating internal friction.

This provides an interesting perspective on human social systems of all shapes and sizes – family units, communities, nations. Necessarily, as individuals interact with each other, various degrees of friction occur as their thoughts, beliefs, worldviews, and emotional states collide. At any given moment, they may agree and move together, or come into conflict, sliding and grinding against each other.

Calibrating Friction is a meditation on these complexities of human interaction. The piece takes its cues from musical styles – especially progressive metal – that highlight metrical dissonance (degrees of conflict between perceived rhythmic and metrical layers). The seven members of the ensemble are treated as individual entities whose relative motions continuously shift in and out of phase. As a result, the overall groove and flow of the music fluctuates as internal elements of the ensemble pass between degrees of agreement and conflict.
— HS