Born out of a desire to use the rich medium of the string quartet as a vehicle for communication across a large span of history and geography, Brooklyn Rider is equally devoted to the interpretation of existing quartet literature and to the creation of new works. The musicians have worked with such composers as Derek Bermel, Lisa Bielawa, Ljova, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Jenny Scheinman and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, and they also regularly perform pieces written or arranged by members of the group. Another integral part of the group's work involves creative collaborations with other artists, such as Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Syrian/Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad, traditional and technology-based Japanese shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki, Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes, the trio 2 Foot Yard, and singer/songwriters Christina Courtin and Suzanne Vega. Courtin's widely released debut album on Nonesuch features several tracks with the quartet, as does Vega's Close Up 2: People & Places. A long-standing relationship between Brooklyn Rider and Kayhan Kalhor resulted in the critically acclaimed 2008 recording, Silent City, on the World Village/Harmonia Mundi label, selected by Rhapsody.com as one of World Music's Best Albums of the Decade.
Brooklyn Rider often appears under the umbrella of outside initiatives begun by all four members of the group. In 2003, violinist Johnny Gandelsman created In A Circle, a series of performance events in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn that explores connections between music and the visual arts. He launched In A Circle Records in 2008 with the release of Brooklyn Rider's eclectic debut recording, Passport, followed by Dominant Curve in 2010, and Seven Steps in 2012. The first two albums made NPR's year-end round-ups Best Classical CDs of 2008 and 50 Favorite Albums of 2010, and the third has already been chosen as an NPR listener favorite. The recordings have received glowing reviews from Gramophone, Strings, the Strad and the Huffington Post, as well as the online indie magazines Pitchfork, Vice, Nerve and Lucid Culture. "Forgive the hyperbole," wrote Strings, "but I've seen the future of chamber music and it is Brooklyn Rider."
Brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen are also co-founders of the exuberant New York-based The Knights, in which all the members of Brooklyn Rider play, and which the New York Times has dubbed "an adventurous young orchestra that has established a strong reputation for polished performances and imaginative programming." The quartet also founded the Stillwater Music Festival (MN) in 2006 as a place to unveil new repertoire and collaborations. As educators, Brooklyn Rider has enjoyed residencies at Williams College, MacPhail Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Texas A&M University, Denison University, and UNC Chapel Hill.
Much of Brooklyn Rider's desire to extend the borders of conventional string quartet programming has come from their longstanding participation in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. When joining the ensemble, they have performed throughout the world, recorded three albums for Sony Classical, and taken part in educational initiatives, family concerts, museum residencies, and media broadcasts.