Friction Quartet, whose performances have been called “terribly beautiful” (San Francisco Classical Voice) and “chillingly effective” (San Francisco Examiner), exists to expand the string quartet repertoire and audience for adventurous contemporary music. Since forming in 2011, Friction has given 28 world premiere performances and commissioned 30 works for string quartet. They recently opened for Kronos Quartet, in Kronos's “Under 30? series. Friction worked with Opera Philadelphia in a performance of selections from Missy Mazzoli's new opera. Friction was selected as one of eleven artists featured in the SF Bay Guardian's 2014 On the Rise issue.
Friction regularly commissions emerging and established composers to write new works for string quartet. They received a Chamber Music America grant to commission a new piano quintet from Andy Akiho to be performed with Jenny Q Chai. They recently premiered several works that they commissioned including “Unmanned” for quartet and live electronics by Ian Dicke and “Inyo” by Gabriella Smith. Upcoming commissions include works by Max Stoffregen, Brendon Randall-Myers, Adam Cuthbert, Ian Schankler, Stephen Feigenbaum and Ben Hjertmann.
While Friction has garnered national 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 received the 2012 Berkeley Piano Club Award and were finalists at the Frances Walton Competition in Seattle, WA. They performed Janacek's second string quartet at the 2014 Deer Valley Festival in Park City, UT. In January 2015, Friction will juxtapose Beethoven's “Serioso” quartet with recompositions of Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Skrillex as part of their residency with the Central Texas Orchestral Society.
Friction Quartet loves to collaborate with artists of all disciplines. Their premiere of Garrett-Moulton's “A Show of Hands,” described by the SF Chronicle as “the greatest dance bargain offered in this town since the San Francisco Ballet performed in Stern Grove last summer,” took place in October 2013. The piece features Dan Becker's original score for string quartet, commissioned by New Music USA, and six dancers that interact with the string quartet by gesturing, lifting, and lowering the musicians.
Friction Quartet is dedicated to building new audiences for contemporary music. In collaboration with composer Danny Clay, Friction realized a graphic score that Danny created using drawings that a third grade class made after listening to Beethoven's Grosse Fuge. Danny's video of the performance synced with the children's drawings is one of Friction's most viewed YouTube videos. Friction works with an after-school program called “Little Opera” that guides elementary school students through the process of creating an opera. They workshop graphic scores that the students create and present excerpts of old and new string quartets. The Little Opera students consistently report that Friction plays exactly what the students had in mind. As part of their 2014 winter residency at the Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival, Friction gave several performances at local schools. Their recompositions of Britney Spears' “Toxic” Skrillex's “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” were the biggest hits.
Friction Quartet takes risks to enlarge the audience's understanding of what a string quartet can be, through the use of digital sound processing, percussion, amplification, movement and by combining music with other media such as dance and film. But they never lose sight of the quartet's essence—the endlessly nuanced interaction of four analog voices, even when those voices are used to channel real and produce faux digital sounds.
Friction Quartet is available for concerts, master classes, composer workshops, weddings, parties, and corporate events.