As a champion of new and experimental music, DAVID FRIEND is taking piano performance in new directions. As chamber musician and soloist, he is dedicated to projects that push boundaries and explore new ideas about what contemporary pianism can be. A fearless performer, he has been hailed by critics for his adventurous programming, his impressive pianism, and his captivating performances. His playing has been described as “astonishingly compelling” (Washington Post), “spooky precision” (The Times of London), and The New York Times calls him “[one] of the finest, busiest pianists active in New York’s contemporary-classical scene.”
He has performed at major venues around the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Royal Festival Hall (London), Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid), the Chan Centre (Vancouver), and the National Centre for the Performing Arts (Beijing). He has also performed extensively in alternative and underground venues including (Le) Poisson Rouge, Issue Project Room, Roulette, LiteraturHaus (Copenhagen), and the Logos Tetrahedron (Ghent). He has appeared in major festivals including the Lincoln Center Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Ecstatic Music Festival, Bang on a Can Marathon, Big Ears Festival, and New York Electronic Art Festival, and at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), P.S. 1, Cleveland Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center.
Friend prizes the process of collaborating with living composers and has worked with some of the most notable composers of our time including Steve Reich, Charles Wuorinen, and David Lang. He is also especially dedicated to the work of young and emerging composers from around the world. As a founding member of TRANSIT New Music, he has worked closely with a dizzying array of emerging composers, including some of the most talented voices of the new generation such as Tristan Perich, Caroline Shaw, Ted Hearne, Missy Mazzoli, Sean Friar, Kate Moore, and Daniel Wohl. He has performed extensively in Columbia University’s Composer Spotlight series with a variety of ensembles, and he workshopped and premiered Julia Wolfe’s Steel Hammer, an evening length chamber piece that was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize.
A dedicated chamber musician, Friend performs regularly with Ensemble Signal, Hotel Elefant, Grand Band, and TRANSIT New Music. He has also performed with an array of ensembles including the American Composers Orchestra, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Either/Or, Le Train Bleu, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Pamplemousse, Ensemble X, Experiments in Opera, Wordless Music Orchestra, Red Light New Music, and Tallujon Percussion. He was the pianist for the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble for three years and has performed chamber music alongside members of esteemed ensembles such as the Metropolitan Opera, Toronto Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic and with faculty members of the Juilliard, Eastman, Oberlin, Cincinnati, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes, Cleveland, and Glenn Gould conservatories.
Friend is a founding member of several innovative ensembles. TRANSIT New Music is a scrappy young collective dedicated to the support and dissemination of new and experimental music by emerging composers from around the world. Through its performance and advocacy initiatives, the collective cuts through stylistic divides to engage contemporary society directly with the music of our time. TRANSIT’s 2013 recording project, Corps Exquis, received critical acclaim from outlets such as The New York Times (“deliciously lovely”) and the Chicago Reader (“fantastic new album…rich, eminently satisfying”). He is also a founding member of Grand Band, the groundbreaking piano sextet. Grand Band is an unconventional ensemble whose gobsmacking performances have been described as “inventive” (New York Magazine) and “powerful” (The New York Times).
He also enjoys performance projects that transcend boundaries or upend conventions. He is part of the Julius Eastman Memory Dinner, a multifaceted project for two pianos, DJ, and vocalist that released an acclaimed album for New Amsterdam Records and has toured extensively. He has worked on projects with artists from other disciplines, including the video art collective Satan’s Pearl Horses and the contemporary dance group Dance Imprints, and he has also often performed with musicians from different traditions such as Bill Frisell (guitar innovator), Don Byron (clarinet rebel), and Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japanese pop icon). His interest in challenging his own creative boundaries has resulted in a variety of interesting projects, including curating an experimental series for the Aspen Art Museum, creating a large-scale sound installation for the iconic New York City club Webster Hall, and solo programming that incorporates performance art elements.
As a soloist, he is noted for his charismatic performances and his intelligent programming. His solo repertoire includes a wide array of extended techniques and innovative performance practices, and he has extensively studied the prepared piano music of John Cage. He has lectured on extended piano techniques at institutions including the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Eastman School of Music, and Cornell University. He is also a fearless concerto soloist and has tackled daunting works, including Cage’s Concerto for Prepared Piano and Chamber Orchestra. Regardless of repertoire, David Friend is interested in reinvigorating the format of solo programming and engaging with audiences. Solo recitals provide the opportunity to present a uniquely intimate window into the mind of the composer and performer. By blending adventurous solo programming with this fundamental concept, David Friend brings a nineteenth-century format into the vital present.
Friend was raised on the Louisiana coast, a region renowned for its rich cultural and natural beauty. He moved to NYC to study with Phillip Kawin at the Manhattan School of Music where he obtained both bachelors and master’s degrees. He has furthered his studies in Cornell University’s Critical Performance program, focusing on experimental and contemporary keyboard performance practices. He is based in New York City. www.davidfriendpiano.com
Watch David Friend demonstrate both his notable virtuosity and sensitivity to folk music performance as the featured instrumentalist in Mary Kouyoumdjian's Dzov Yerku Kooynov [Sea of Two Colors] . Of this performance, I Care if You Listen said, “David Friend and his playing so convincingly captured Vardapet and his plight in a performance that seemed to underlie the performance of the music itself.”