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about friction

Friction Quartet, whose performances have been called “terribly beautiful” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “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 that Friction Quartet is “an artist who should be discovered” and described their performance 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 43 works for string quartet and given world premiere performances of more than 80 works. They developed the Friction Commissioning Initiative in 2017 as a way to work together with their audience to fund specific commissions. The $14,000 raised to date has helped Friction commission a total of 12 new works, including six by young composers between the ages 16 and 21. 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. The project is slated to premiere in the Fall of 2020 at the Pomeroy Recreation and Rehabilitation Center in San Francisco. Friction’s past grants include a grant from Chamber Music America that was used to commission a piano quintet from Andy Akiho, which debuted in November 2016, as well as project grants from Intermusic SF and Zellerbach Family Foundation supporting special projects involving the performance of commissioned works. 

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 enrichment programs. They are participating for the third 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. They have also 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 released their full-length debut album, resolve, in 2018 through Bandcamp. 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 own 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.


“There are no words for Black Angels—even Crumb struggles to describe it—but in performances this good, it speaks, overwhelmingly, for itself. Friction is a young group, far too young to have anything to bring to the piece beyond empathy and profound musicianship, but their performance was The Sixties, in all its random horror, creepy beauty, and wild accesses of awe and wonder. There was no fuss, no ‘tude, none of the usual hipper-than-thou sanctimony; instead, they entered into the work reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of something bigger than themselves. They are also sublimely gifted and exquisitely skilled. . . this performance was one of the truest and most moving things I’ve ever heard or seen."


-Christopher Johnson, ZealNYC

“The members of the Friction Quartet — four gifted and alert young string players with roots in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music — seem to have adopted an appropriate name not just for their ensemble, but for an entire vein of musical thought.  The pieces the group unveiled during an engrossing concert on Friday night at the Center for New Music in San Francisco shared a predilection for the gritty, the intense, the rhythmically pungent. Throughout the entire program — which included some new works written for the ensemble and others of less recent vintage — you could hear the expressive potential of bows rubbing abrasively against strings.  This was high-octane music-making, and the Frictioneers…brought to all of it a fine blend of rhythmic ferocity and tonal flair.”

-Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle


“The San Francisco-based Friction Quartet . . . brought a charismatic urgency and fierce commitment to [“Driftwood on Sand” by Piers Hellawell]; and the quartet didn’t lose its poise when it had to suddenly stop for one of the players to fix a broken string, (The Friction Quartet, a group to keep an eye on, gave equally vivid performances on Friday of other new and diverse works by Missy Mazzoli, Andy Akiho and Roger Briggs.)”

-Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press


“The entire experience was chillingly effective.”

-Stephen Smoliar, The Examiner


“The famous Janáček String Quartet no. 2, “Intimate Letters ” was the highlight of the night however, with the gifted collaborative ensemble Friction Quartet taking the stage, seated in a novel arrangement…Friction Quartet gave the first movement a bracing, declarative, and stunningly passionate exposition, full of tempestuous élan yet filled with conspicuous regard for the intimacies of harmonic conversation and texture. Never relinquishing an eliding sense of chordal control from passage to passage, the quartet shifted seamlessly through a broad variety of tempi. Each voice shone with a timbral freshness that rang the walls of Rolston Hall, but never subverting the ‘voice of Kamila,’ acutely rendered in Ms. Warbelow’s sonorous viola lines. . . . The second movement Adagio is known for its at-once furious passage work and dizzyingly high, demanding first violin excoriations, offset with quasi-folklike phrases depicting an intimacy forced to reside within contentious inner conflict. Friction Quartet was astonishingly successful here in pulling out a variety of contorted, violent expression.”

-Stephan Bonfield, The Calgary Herald

“[Roger Briggs’] ‘Friction’ is a caffeinated and colorful piece, juxtaposing furious bowing with gossamer harmonics. Burning through this short and exhilarating romp, players expertly balanced the volatile energy with intense focus and precision. . . . In the midst of recent high-profile orchestra strikes, it’s clear that the economic model for Classical Music is changing, and musicians and presenters will have to adapt. But seeing the Friction Quartet live should leave us without any doubts: the future is energetic, colorful, technically exquisite, conceptually adventurous and very much alive. Bravi!”

-Nicholas Rich, News and Record Greensboro

“Universe Explosion (2014) by Adam Cuthbert was first, undertaking the ambitious task of presenting a musical biography of the universe from its beginning to the present. . . . The playing by the Friction Quartet was precise and accurate, producing a strong, satisfying groove that suggested the music of Steve Reich. Unmanned is a powerful musical experience with a troubling message about the use of deadly force by remote control and the Friction Quartet brought this challenging vision to a masterful realization.”

-Paul Miller, New Classic LA

“If I’d heard nothing besides Ian Dicke’s harrowing Unmanned, powerfully performed by the Friction Quartet, my Hot Air sampler would have been memorable. . . . [they] gave everything from lyrical plunges to keening wails to snapping pizzicati an unnerving urgency. It was terribly beautiful, dreadfully jaunty, and finally implosive. One by one, the players abandoned their chairs and retreated to the audience, as the final software-generated lines swooped, decayed, and disappeared. A silent shiver ran through the house before the applause.”

-Steven Winn, San Francisco Classical Voice

“Opening for infamously iconoclastic, 40-year-old Bay Area contemporary music heroes Kronos Quartet, as the young Friction Quartet did earlier this year, might launch even the most experienced string player into a bow-snapping fit of nerves. But the Friction foursome was built on determination and fearlessness . . . They opened for Kronos with an exhilarating take on Glass’s fifth string quartet.”

-Marke B, San Francisco Bay Guardian’s 2014 “On the Rise” Issue

“The composition was clearly a demanding one, which Friction honored with attentive technique and focus.”

“Recordings may establish familiarity with Ravel’s melodies and distinctive approaches to harmonic progression; but the life-blood of this quartet stems from the role of each instrument as its own energy center. The interplay of those energy centers emerges with a subtlety that can only really be appreciated through performance itself, and Friction captured all of the excitement of that interplay in last night’s interpretation of this familiar score.”

-Stephen Smoliar, The Examiner

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