Lawrence Dillon@Sequenza21.com

"There are no two points so distant from one another that they cannot be connected by a single straight line -- and an infinite number of curves."

Composer Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, from brief solo pieces to a full-length opera. Three disks of his music are due out in 2010 on the Bridge, Albany and Naxos labels. In the past year, he has had commissions from the Emerson String Quartet, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra.

Although he lost 50% of his hearing in a childhood illness, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served as Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, Assistant Dean of Performance, and Interim Dean of the School of Music. He was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.


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Thursday, May 19, 2005
Why Compose?

We are all familiar with the struggles that composers face in finding artistic and professional success. The difficulties are enormous and the external rewards are few.

Elodie Lauten made a great list of reasons not to compose last month. I agree with all of her reasons, but Iíd like to offer a complementary list of the reasons why composersí work is essential:
  • There are so many people who devote their lives to destroying things, itís important to have just as many people devoted to creation, in order to balance out the ledger.
  • Composers create a unique record of what it means to be alive at this moment. Their record is different from poetry or prose, itís different from visual representations. Without that record, we, as a civilization, know ourselves a little less, and the future understands us a little less, which is to our detriment.
  • Composers teach the world to listen more closely. We will never reach a point where people listen too closely to themselves, or to one another. Our presence, our work, serves as a reminder that listening brings greater wisdom and awareness.
  • Composers make a unique connection to the past and the future. The musical ideas that get passed on and transformed from the beginning of time to the end are a tangible demonstration of the consistency and variance of life itself.
  • New music surprises us, and rewards us for our willingness to be surprised. Developing the ability to accept and grow from surprise is a crucial survival skill.
  • Living composers, forging music from their best and worst thoughts, demonstrate that the joys and indignities we all experience in our daily lives should never be wasted.
And finally:
  • It feels good. Never underestimate the importance of doing things that give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Those good feelings feed one another, feed our relationships with others, and in turn are passed on to people we never meet.
If, as individual composers, we are ignored in our own lifetimes or forgotten when we die, that is beyond our control and, to a certain extent, irrelevant to our purpose. The truth is, most people are ignored and forgotten by society at large, and each one of us has come from a long line of ignored and forgotten people, what Thoreau called lives of quiet desperation. For adolescents, this is a tragedy. For adults, it should be an inspiration.