New York City-based, JUNO-nominated composer Haralabos [Harry] Stafylakis hails from Montreal. "Dreamy yet rhythmic" (NY Times), with a “terrible luminosity” and “ferociously expressive” (Times Colonist), his concert music is “an amalgamation of the classical music tradition and the soul and grime of heavy metal” (I Care If You Listen), “favoring doomsday chords and jackhammer rhythms” (The New Yorker).
Stafylakis is the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's composer-in-residence and co-curator of the Winnipeg New Music Festival. He has collaborated with artists and ensembles including Dame Evelyn Glennie, Roomful of Teeth, JACK Quartet, and orchestras around the world.
He has collaborated with progressive metal pioneers Animals As Leaders on the adaptation of their music for metal band & orchestra, and with Courtney Swain, Bent Knee, and ShoutHouse on the prog metal & chamber music fusion dontwaitforme. Hard Rubber Orchestra’s 2022 album Iguana earned Stafylakis a JUNO nomination for his metal–big band fusion composition Source Code.
His 2023 album Calibrating Friction (New Amsterdam Records) has garnered recognition from progressive metal/rock and classical media alike for its deeply integrated fusion of metal and classical idioms and is nominated for the 2024 JUNO Awards’ Instrumental Album of the Year.
Recognitions include the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Charles Ives Fellowship, ASCAP’s Leonard Bernstein Award, and SOCAN’s Classical Composer of the Year Award. He is a founding member of the NYC composer collective ICEBERG New Music. Recordings of his works appear on New Amsterdam Records, Naxos, Analekta, Contrastes, Redshift, and Sono Luminus.
New York City-based, JUNO-nominated composer Haralabos [Harry] Stafylakis (b. 1982) hails from Montreal, Canada. "Dreamy yet rhythmic" (NY Times), with a “terrible luminosity” and “ferociously expressive” (Times Colonist), his concert music is “an amalgamation of the classical music tradition and the soul and grime of heavy metal” (I Care If You Listen). With an intimate background in progressive metal and traditional Greek music, Stafylakis has developed a unique conception of musical temporality and rhythm, infusing his compositions with a propulsive vitality that “favors doomsday chords and jackhammer rhythms” (The New Yorker).
Since 2016, Stafylakis is the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Composer-In-Residence and Co-Curator of the WSO's Winnipeg New Music Festival. His works have been performed by orchestras including the Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Ottawa, Regina, Québec, Victoria, PEI, Spokane, Stamford, Longueuil, FSU, and Greek Youth Symphony Orchestras, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Orchestre Classique de Montréal, and Israel Chamber Orchestra.
He has collaborated with artists and ensembles including Animals As Leaders, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Roomful of Teeth, JACK Quartet, Bent Knee, Decoda Ensemble, ShoutHouse, Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Contemporaneous, Vicky Chow, Hard Rubber Orchestra, Alexandre Da Costa, and Philippe Sly, among others.
His works have been featured at venues and festivals around the world, including Carnegie Hall and the NY Philharmonic Biennial. In 2018–19 he collaborated with progressive metal pioneers Animals As Leaders on the symphonic adaptation of their music for metal band & orchestra, and in 2020–21 collaborated with Courtney Swain and members of Bent Knee and ShoutHouse on the prog metal & chamber music fusion dontwaitforme. Hard Rubber Orchestra’s 2022 album Iguana earned Stafylakis a JUNO nomination for his metal–big band fusion composition Source Code, featuring the composer on guitars.
Stafylakis’s 2023 album Calibrating Friction (New Amsterdam Records) has garnered recognition from progressive metal/rock and classical media alike for its deeply integrated fusion of metal and classical idioms, and is nominated for the 2024 JUNO Awards’ Instrumental Album of the Year. Produced in collaboration with Adam Pietrykowski (Van Tilburg), it features an all-star roster of musicians including guitarist Javier Reyes (Mestís, Animals as Leaders), cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne (Leprous), pianist Vicky Chow (Band On A Can All-Stars), and violinist/violist Fung Chern Hwei (Seven)Suns), among others. It has been called “an album of the year candidate” (Avant Music News), “a genuinely perfect album. A masterpiece” (Bearded Gentlemen Music), and a “style [that] can change the course of prog metal and perhaps music itself” (The Progressive Subway).
Other recent recordings featuring his music include albums by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra & Miguel Harth-Bedoya (Naxos), Jenny Lin (Sono Luminus), the Cicchillitti-Cowan Duo (Analekta), Patrick Kearney (Contrastes), and the Hard Rubber Orchestra (Redshift).
His music has been recognized with the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, ASCAP’s Leonard Bernstein Award, SOCAN’s Classical Composer of the Year Award, four SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers, and grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, FACTOR, SSHRC, and New Music USA. He serves on the board of directors of GroundSwell (Winnipeg), is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre, and a founding member of the NYC composer collective ICEBERG New Music.
Stafylakis holds degrees from McGill University and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He lectures at the City College of New York (CUNY) and Purchase College Conservatory of Music (SUNY), and has been a guest lecturer at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. His research examines the conception of rhythm and meter in progressive metal.
"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
"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 hisWeightedwith that often elusive holy grail of art-making: integrity."
—Holly Harris on Weighted (with Animals As Leaders), Winnipeg Free Press
"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 ofEIDOS, 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
"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
"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
"Sun Exhaling Lightwas 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
"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
“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
"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
"Composed a year into the pandemic, the piece lived up to its name and its pertinence to current events in the world. Audience members were pulled into an almost dreamlike trance that was mixed in with mystery and suspense. The artists’ creativity was greatly seen here, as the orchestra stomped their feet to create a beat and the guitarists rapped their knuckles on their instruments to make rhythm.So moved after these incredible performances, the audience gave a standing ovation that lasted around a minute and a half."
—Sofia Foglia on To wake and find the world still burning, The Charlatan