Harry Stafylakis

Composer


Selected Interviews and Features


The New Yorker – "Roomful of Teeth Is Revolutionizing Choral Music" – full article

I Care If You Listen – "Winnipeg New Music Festival" three-part profile – part 1 / part 2 / part 3

NewMusicBox – "A Musical Oasis In An Icefield" – full article

I Care If You Listen – "Mivos Quartet and Iceberg New Music at Tenri Cultural Institute" – full article

SOCAN Words & Music – "Harry Stafylakis Tends Toward the Romantic Tradition" – full article/interview

Winnipeg Free Press – "New music festival wraps on high note: Event raises the bar for next year" – full article

The Silence Between (podcast) – Episode 2: Harry Stafylakis – full episode

Paper Cut Podcast – Episode #93: Harry Stafylakis – full episode

Music for PhDs (podcast) – Harry Stafylakis: Calibrating Friction – full episode

Spokane Public Radio – "From the Studio: Composer Harry Stafylakis and Symphony with a Splash" – full interview


Selected Press & Reviews

"The work of Harry Stafylakis is an amalgamation of the classical music tradition and the soul and grime of heavy metal. Inspired by the events of 9/11 and the stories of those involved that have since come to the forefront of the public mind, Stafylakis’ Aftermath is one of those string quartets that really can’t be forgotten because of how effective the opening measures are. Shocking and unnerving, the work begins with eight jarring notes that lead into a series of beautiful chords whose overtones we could actually hear. Just as the chords transformed into their most haunting and desolate, those eight angry notes came in again, jolting."

—Stephanie Ann Boyd on String Quartet No. 4, "Aftermath", I Care If You Listen
full review

"Who can ever forget the sight and sounds of prog-metal pioneers (and I’ve now since learned that it’s square to call the genre "heavy" metal) Animals as Leaders taking the stage for their symphonic debut? While prog metal might arguably not be everyone’s cup of tea, my hat’s off to festival co-curator and WSO composer-in-residence Harry Stafylakis, whose compositional feet are firmly planted in both classical and metal worlds, for powering the world première of his Weighted with that often elusive holy grail of art-making: integrity."

—Holly Harris on Weighted (with Animals As Leaders), Winnipeg Free Press
full review

"It proved fascinating to hear Stafylakis establish a lingua franca with a cappella choral music – the furthest thing away from heavy metal – with his world première of EIDOS, Book I, displaying the same tightly wound energy and muscular writing as with his bold orchestral works."

—Holly Harris on EIDOS, Book I (with Roomful of Teeth), Winnipeg Free Press
full review

"Stafylakis displays an immense knowledge and technique of orchestration to create a weight and gravity only paralleled by the dystopian future from the text.[...] The work’s sense of pacing through harmonic progression relentlessly pulls the audience further into dystopia, utilizing masterful counterpoint and a necessary upheaval of expected structures to maneuver a hesitant audience through a necessary conceptual landscape. Stafylakis’s constructed narrative stood as a pillar for the festival for the role political and social commentary can play on the orchestral stage."

—Kevin Baldwin on A Parable for End Times, I Care If You Listen
full review

"WSO pairs Rachmaninoff, Stafylakis for ovation-worthy evening:
The highly introspective, three-part orchestral song cycle based on D. H. Lawrence’s harrowing poem of 1929, "The Ship of Death" in which the dying writer wrestled with his own mortality became its own ideal vessel for Stafylakis' take-no-prisoners compositional style, daring to pull back the curtain on the darkest shadows of life.

But the epic work four years in gestation also highlights the versatility of his compelling artistry, alternatively fuelled by his own head-banging "metal" ethos as witnessed during his last WSO première, Weighted at the 2019 Winnipeg New Music Festival featuring American progressive metal trio Animals as Leaders, and his ability to spin spiderwebs of gossamer light instrumental textures.

Raiskin — another musical chameleon — kept the New York City-based composer’s latest creation well in hand, superbly leading the players while displaying his full commitment to the often-densely written, high octane orchestration.

After a gripping introduction that immediately plunged the crowd of 1,053 into Stafylakis’ visceral sound world, Sly immediately set the tone for the 40-minute piece with fierce intensity and noble gravitas requisite for carrying the weighty work dealing with life and death to its ultimate shores.
His robust vocals soared on his thoughtful phrasing and confident projection, while bringing operatic intensity to several sections in particular, such as his repeatedly intoning "oblivion" like a dirge-like chant; a wise choice that added overall cohesion to the work as well heightening its dramatic punch.

At times, the singer seemed to compete with Stafylakis' often volcanic orchestration of blockbuster chords and knotty polyrhythms, however effective interludes including word painting laced throughout and serving as commentary for its 10 sections provided both relief and release, while creating better balance between disparate forces. It also became a struggle at times to hear some of Sly’s text in his lowest register, with his voice subsumed into the orchestra's sonic depths.

The climax that comes with the word "oblivion" sung a cappella in the wake of lugubrious, muted brass — including Sly throwing his head backwards that risked melodrama but thankfully escaped that peril — resonated with a sense of fatalism. His final decree to listeners to "build your ship of death… For the voyage of oblivion awaits you," delivered with spine-tingling intensity chilled to the bone, leading to a well-deserved standing ovation and cheers from the audience, with the beaming composer taking the stage for his bow with Sly."

—Holly Harris on Into Oblivion, Winnipeg Free Press
full review

"Sun Exhaling Light was one of the most impressive works the orchestra has premièred in recent years. ... And there was indeed a kind of terrible luminosity to the music, which was at times ferociously expressive. Though short, the work was richly varied and was orchestrated with flair."

—Kevin Bazzana on Sun Exhaling Light, Times Colonist, Victoria
full review

"It did, indeed, have a sense of the flow of a river, starting with a very gentle raindrop opening — the source? — and building up in overlapping spirals of ideas into a rushing movement. All quietens again, and a new mood takes over, with a big rising phrase and harmonies Vaughan Williams would have appreciated, and with a solo violin waxing lyrical. Ideas slowly rise from these waters before the atmospheric piece ends with high harmonics on the strings. This is very fine music, made more so by the very sure sense of structure (drawing on the chaconne and the passacaglia) that did not need to be understood to be felt."

—Mark Morris on Never the Same River, Edmonton Journal
full review

“It’s a really powerful piece that uses great orchestral forces. It really speaks to the incredible changes happening right now in the world physically and philosophically, and has great energy.”

—conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson on Holocene Extinction, Winnipeg Free Press interview
full article/interview

"The one-movement work begins effectively with a simple, hypnotic four- note theme heard (mostly) in piano and harp that gradually becomes subsumed by a larger forces, including belching brass and rugged downbowing effects courtesy of the lower strings. Stafylakis’s effective use of texture helped build dramatic tension and suspense through to the piece’s final crash of cymbals."

—Holly Harris on Brittle Fracture, Winnipeg Free Press
full review