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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Monday, June 20, 2005
Composer's Workshop

Last week, I reported on doing time in Revision City, reworking passages from various recently premiered works. Today, Iíd like to share what kinds of things typically catch my ear when Iím down to the last few tweaks.

In the first movement from Sonata: Motion for flute and piano, there is a passage that didnít quite accomplish what I had wanted. If you click here, you can listen to the premiere performance while I describe the problem and my solution. The movement is just under five minutes long.

At 1:44, a melody turns up in the flute, accompanied by a rollicking piano part. Thirty seconds later, the melody repeats a half-step lower over a dissonant pedal. I had wanted this recurrence to begin at a lower level of intensity than its predecessor, but then build up, over the course of about 20 seconds, to an exuberant high, serving as a culmination point in the movement.

To my ear, all of this happens, but I feel like the recurrence lies too low for too long before climbing -- it needed a bit more life. So, in the revision, Iíve exaggerated the ornamentation in the line -- made it more vocal, in effect -- which not only brings some much-needed energy, it also helps distract attention from where the line is headed. That way, when we arrive, the result is both more surprising and more satisfying.

(What Iím trying to describe is only partly a matter of pitch level -- obviously, if I just wanted the melody to go higher sooner, the solution would have been easy. What I needed was more energy sooner.)

But youíll just have to imagine the results for the time being -- plans are underway to make a recording, and recordings can take months to years to release.

In any case, this is a good example of a minor revision. The third movement didnít emerge from my post-premiere chisel nearly so unscathed.