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How long will Earth be habitable for our kids?


A love letter to our fragile planet, Rising refers to the increasing water and temperatures that threaten to consume our human settlements and the wilderness around us. It is also a rallying cry to mobilize our community against this catastrophe. This is our planet to love, and our planet to lose. We hope that this album will provide an environment for you to reflect on the power and vulnerability of our planet Earth.

A Sleeptalker Describes the Risings of the Seas 
for string quartet | 2016 commission

A Sleeptalker Describes the Rising of the Seas is the result of a vision that Alex had while meditating. In this vision Alex could see the skyline of San Francisco submerged by rising sea levels.  

The California Crest 

for string quartet | 2015 commission

My approach to composing music inspired by the mountains of California was not very sophisticated; I saved money, quit my job, and decided to try to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from it's southern terminus to Northern California. My (basic) compositional strategy was to carry manuscript paper, good music to listen to for further inspiration, and to make as many sketches on the trail as I could, which I hoped to further develop back at home. Among the recordings I brought with me was Todd Reynolds’ album Outerborough. One piece from Outerborough, End Of Day I particularly loved; the cyclical, evocative music seemed to perfectly express the slow beauty of sundown in the Sierra Nevada, and I often listened to it during the “golden hour”. It was, appropriately enough, part of my end-of-day ritual. The 3rd movement in my quartet, “The Rebirth of Owens Lake”, was inspired by an evening I spent looking out through a notch in the Eastern Sierra escarpment and onto the sandy remnants of Owens Lake, trying to picture a time when it was immense from collecting the vast runoff of the legendary Sierra Nevada glaciers. It was bittersweet trying to understand the intersection between natural change, and that which is compelled by humans and not at all immutable; I wondered what it would feel like if I could somehow watch the lake be reborn - whether by time, weather or even humanity. In my expression of a momentary vision of an Owens Lake lost, and perhaps one day reborn, I evoked the music I often listened to during that time of day; Todd Reynolds’ End of Day. Todd’s music both directly inspired my work, and also nourished a mental space that encouraged the vision I was seeking. Without his creation I would not have created mine. Thank you, Todd, for your talent, passion, and your generosity.


for string quartet and electronics | 2013 commission

Inyo is inspired by Gabriella's many backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California and the dramatic topography and bleak beauty of the Eastern Sierra especially. There, lush alpine meadows and dry, Ancient Bristlecone slopes end in sheer granite bluffs, and icy, crystalline, snow-melt lakes give way to an alien expanse of sudden, desolate, peaks jutting up from red desert—all under the gaze of fourteen-thousand-foot, snowy summits and vivid, Milky Way streaked nights. She envisioned the piece as a slowly evolving, never-ending journey through this ever-changing Sierra landscape. She took the title “Inyo” from “Inyo National Forest,” a wilderness area in the Eastern Sierra. “Inyo” means “dwelling place of the great spirit” in the Mono language.

Praise for Rising:

"Friction Quartet’s Rising is a huge force field that gathers strong, vast sonic particles into intricate musical stories spoken in a refreshing new language. 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!" - David Harrington, Kronos Quartet 


"Friction Quartet’s fabulous new album — Rising — is a starkly beautiful and expertly played example of a young quartet at the top of its game. Their no-nonsense motoric ensemble and enormous grab-bag of extended techniques is not only impressive, but also comes across as integral to the message of each piece. This well-chosen and powerful music is Friction Quartet's mother tongue. Each work on Rising dwells in some way on the infinity, majesty and fragility of the California ecosystem. I had a strange sensation while listening to this album: it made me want to drop everything and head straight for wild lands for fear I may never see them again. A transporting, disquieting, yet thrilling listening experience. Bravo!"- Owen Dalby, St. Lawrence String Quartet 

The Composers


Alex Van Gils

Alex Van Gils is a composer and performer, exploring the interplay between human and electronic creative agents. In his composition work he creates musical systems that explore, amplify and transform the gestures of human improvisational partners.

Alex holds a Ph. D. in Music Theory and Composition from UC Davis. His dissertation work included The Permanent, a concerto for improvising jazz saxophone and orchestra.

Alex lives in Brooklyn, NY, and his active projects include XBUCKET, a performance trio featuring live-processed violin and generative video, and also a discipline of daily compositions with Max/MSP/Jitter visuals uploaded to @avg.music on instagram.

Alex is a founding member of Cutelab, a place for colors and sounds in NYC, and is a teaching fellow with Musical Mentors Collaborative.


Max Stoffregen

My name is Robert Max Stoffregen, and everyone has always called me Max. I am a composer and piano player, among a few other things. I born in St. Paul, MN, raised in the SF Bay Area, and over the years I’ve lived in some other places like Austin, Texas and New York.

As a kid growing up in Contra Costa County skateboarding was a big part of my life, and I when I was 15 I bought an MPC2000XL sampling drum machine with my good friend Lyle so we could make beats for our friends to skate and freestyle rap to. This morphed into a serious vinyl buying habit, and Lyle and I spent many afternoons in thrift stores buying records by the crate. I listened through dozens of records a week, ranging from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers to Igor Stravinsky, digging for that magical 4 bar loop. Listening to so much diverse music in such a peculiar way was a magical experience that opened up a world of creativity to me.

When I was 17, my brother Nate took me on a backpack trip in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. I had never seen so many glorious mountains, and since then spending time in the backcountry has become a passion and priority. Our natural world is a potent inspiration, and many of my compositions are inspired by the landscapes I have had the pleasure of immersing myself in.

Music has been an immeasurable gift in my life. It has given me the opportunity to work with smart, talented people and its abstract yet expressive nature has encouraged the pursuit of ideas and the expression of feelings that would have been otherwise vexing for me to convey. I earned my Master’s degree in Music Composition from the University of Texas in Austin, and I am stoked and grateful for every opportunity to practice a craft that is often as obscure and challenging as it is beautiful.


Gabriella Smith 

Gabriella Smith is a composer from the San Francisco Bay Area whose music is described as “high-voltage and wildly imaginative” (Philadelphia Inquirer), and “the coolest, most exciting, most inventive new voice I’ve heard in ages” (Musical America). Her music has been performed throughout the U.S. and internationally by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Roomful of Teeth, Aizuri Quartet, Dover Quartet, eighth blackbird, Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Nashville Symphony, PRISM Quartet, and yMusic, among others. 

Gabriella received her Bachelors of Music in composition from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with David Ludwig, Jennifer Higdon, and Richard Danielpour. After Curtis, she attended Princeton University for graduate studies, where she has studied with Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Dan Trueman, Dmitri Tymoczko, Donnacha Dennehey, and Ju Ri Seo.


When not composing, she can be found hiking, backpacking (playing trail songs on her ukulele along the way), birding, playing capoeira, and recording underwater soundscapes with her hydrophone.