On Forming Friction
"I could feel the audience become sentimental" said Kevin after our performance of Phillip Glass' third quartet at the Zephyr Chamber Music Festival in Courmayeur, Italy. I knew what he meant. The piece flows like a tear running down a cheek. With mountains towering above and chamber music flooding my soul I decided on a path and a partner.
"Kevin, would you be interested in forming a contemporary music quartet?"
"That's what I've always wanted to do. Yes."
I hadn't become a full fledged new music head, but I realized the possibilities that contemporary music presented. The expression of feelings that exist today. The ability to move audiences in ways they haven't been moved before. The privilege of being the first to bring new sound worlds to life. The spontaneity of an "anything goes" mind set.
I'm not sure why I was absolutely comfortable starting Friction Quartet but the path has always been clear. I was new to new music but to dive right in felt right. Perhaps part of it was that I always got along with composers. My experience at Fontainebleau Conservatoire in France, a summer program for chamber music, composition and architecture, was formative for sure and it was where I became close friends with Stephen Cabell. Stephen's quartet was the first piece of contemporary music I remember playing. God damn was it good music. And it was music you could dig into without the Classical establishment breathing down your neck. There was no voice saying, phrase this way, don't slide too much there, your tone is too rough. And playing music "unsupervised" by the masters helped me to realize that all music should be played this way: with reckless abandon and full commitment. Great teachers help you sculpt what you want to say into a clear statement, they don't tell you what the statement should be.
I worked with two other good friends of mine at Fontainebleau, Andy Ralston and Aakaash Israni. Aakaash went on to become the bassist in the absolutely incredible and revolutionary Dawn of Midi. We collaborated with architects from Fontainbleau's Architecture School. We created site specific works in various locations around the Chateau that were my first forays into aleatoric music, interdisciplinary projects, and "Classical" improvisation. My experience in Ska and Jazz bands and intoxicated jam sessions made this transition seamless.
By the time I worked with Kevin on the Phillip Glass I had been hanging with two of the best quartets in the Classical realm, Miró and Aeolus, at University of Texas. Watching these quartets perform and interact with each other was awe inspiring. I wanted to have a family that was devoted to excellent quartet playing. I wanted to travel with loved ones and live in the extreme beauty that a great quartet can produce. It wasn't until I reconnected with Kevin at the Zephyr Chamber Music Festival in Italy that I realized a life in new music was more appropriate for my impulsive, adventurous self.
With my Masters Degree near completion at UT, I approached a fork in the road. To the right was a restart of sorts, moving to Philadelphia to study jazz cello and work on projects with my Brother, Josh, who I have incredible love and respect for. The Philly scene has always been one I admired greatly. It's a vibrant experimental music lab filled with excellent adventurers. The Jazz history is seductive and runs deep through all the music that happens. And to the left was a year at SF Conservatory and a "hit the ground running" approach to launching a new music string quartet. For years I had wanted to move to San Francisco and study with Jennifer Culp. Her playing is soulful, deep, distinctly rich. When she accepted me into her studio, the decision was made. I would head west and start a quartet with Kevin.