Harry Stafylakis


The Sharp End
for saxophone quartet (SATB) (2009)

11 minutes

Performed by Alana Goldscheid, Micah Langer, Paul Arzac, and Samantha Parent
Recorded by Gonzalo Garcia at MMR, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

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

Program Notes

The Sharp End was composed during my 2009-10 residency with the McGill University Saxophone Quartet, under the direction of Abe Kestenberg. Having had ample time to work with the ensemble, to explore their repertoire of music, techniques, and timbres, I set about developing a piece that attempts to take advantage of the “woodwindesque” lyricism and sweetness, as well as the “brassy” power and raucousness of the instruments.
Throughout the work, I sought to emulate the sound and syntax of heavy metal-style electric guitar writing, with a preponderance of power chords (open 5ths and their inversions/extensions), ostinati, jagged rhythms, and asymmetrical meters. There is often an implication of a strong backbeat, where an imaginary drum set would typically carry the musical momentum.
The work follows a generic, classical literary-narrative structure; the three movements are aptly – and generically – named “Prologue”, “The Story”, and “Epilogue”. The principle movement (“The Story”) is modelled on one of the most common popular song forms used in metal music, a generalized sonata (AABA) form that incorporates Pre-Verse, Verse, Pre-Chorus, Chorus, and Bridge sections.

The Sharp End was premiered by the McGill University Saxophone Quartet on March 27, 2010 in Redpath Hall, Montreal, Canada.