Friction Quartet, whose performances have been called “stunningly passionate” (Calgary Herald) and “exquisitely skilled” (ZealNYC), exists to modernize the chamber music experience and expand the string quartet repertoire. Friction achieves its mission by commissioning new works, curating imaginative programs, collaborating with artists, and presenting interactive educational outreach. Joshua Kosman (San Francisco Chronicle) declared Friction Quartet, “The Bay Area's redoubtable new-music ensemble,” and describes their performancing as “high-octane music making…a fine blend of rhythmic ferocity and tonal flair.”
Friction made their debut at Carnegie Hall in 2016 as participants in the Kronos Quartet Fifty for the Future Workshop. They returned in March of 2018 to perform George Crumb’s Black Angels as part of “The 60’s” festival and their performance was described as, “one of the truest and most moving things I’ve ever heard or seen.” (Zeal NYC)
Since forming in 2011, Friction has commissioned fifty works for string quartet and given world premiere performances of more than eighty works. They developed the Friction Commissioning Initiative in 2017 as a way to work together with their audience to fund specific commissions. The $20,000 raised to date has helped Friction commission a total of twelve new works, including five by young composers between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. They were awarded a 2019 Intermusic SF Musical Grant to develop a participatory educational program with composer Danny Clay that is designed to be accessible and sensory-friendly. Friction’s past grants include a grant from Chamber Music America to commission Prospects of a Misplaced Year, a piano quintet from composer Andy Akiho which debuted in November 2016, as well as project grants from IntermusicSF and Zellerbach Family Foundation supporting special projects involving the performance of commissioned works, and an organizational development grant from California Arts Council.
While Friction has garnered international attention as commissioners and interpreters of new music, they are also devoted to performing masterworks of the string quartet repertoire at the highest level. They won Second Prize in the 2016 Schoenfeld Competition, they were quarter-finalists in the 2015 Fischoff Competition and placed second at the 2015 Frances Walton Competition
Friction has held residencies at the New Music for Strings Festival in Denmark, Interlochen Arts Camp, Lunenburg Academy of Music in Nova Scotia, Napa Valley Performing Arts Center, Old First Concerts, San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and was the first ensemble in residence at the Center for New Music.
Friction Quartet is dedicated to building new audiences for contemporary music through interactive musical education programs. In addition to their own programming, they are participating for the fifth consecutive year in the San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music program, visiting over 60 public schools annually. They are Ensemble Partners with Young Composers & Improvisors Workshop, workshopping and premiering new works written by young composers in the Bay Area, and have given presentations at Oakland public schools through KDFC’s Playground Pop Up program. In collaboration with Meridian Hill Pictures, they created a short documentary, titled Friction, that profiles their early educational outreach in Washington DC’s Mundo Verde Public Charter School. Their presentations regularly utilize Doug’s adventurous arrangements of Pop songs alongside excerpts from standard string quartet repertoire to help young audiences build connections to musical concepts.
Friction appears on recordings with National Sawdust Tracks, Innova Records, Albany Records, Pinna Records, and many independent releases. They have two self-released albums available on Bandcamp, rising and resolve. David Harrington of Kronos Quartet has praised Friction’s latest album saying, “With rising, Friction gives us a glimpse into the future of music and the pivotal role the Friction Quartet will have in that future. What a beautiful album!”Friction has appeared on radio stations such as NPR, KALW, KING-FM, and KUT, among others.
Friction’s video of the second movement of First Quartet by John Adams was named the #2 video of the year in 2015 by Second Inversion. John Adams shared this video on his homepage and called it “spectacular.” Their video for Andy Akiho’s In/ Exchange, featuring Friction and Akiho, was also chosen by Second Inversion for their Top 5 videos of 2016. The video was also featured on American Public Media’s Performance Today.
Friction Quartet takes risks to enlarge the audience’s understanding of what a string quartet can be using arrangements of pop music, digital processing, percussion, amplification, movement, and additional media. Their multimedia and interdisciplinary projects have received critical acclaim. In 2017 they produced Spaced Out, an evening-length suite of music about the cosmos that utilizes surround sound electronics and includes a Friction Commission written by Jon Kulpa. The San Francisco Classical Voice called it “accessible, yet surreal.” No matter where their musical exploration takes them, they never lose sight of the string quartet’s essence– the timeless and endlessly nuanced interaction of four analog voices.