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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Friday, July 08, 2005
Wiki Man

In the 1973 film Wicker Man, a British policeman meddles in a culture he doesnít understand with drastic results.

Last week I expressed my puzzlement at the way the S21 Wiki was taking shape, and Iím happy to report that I havenít been burned alive. But Iíve certainly learned where the flames are.

Hereís what happened Ė almost a month ago, Jerry Bowles got the beautiful idea of creating a musical version of Wikipedia. We were all encouraged to put our bios on the S21 Wiki. A few intrepid souls went further, putting tremendous amounts of time and effort into making the wiki look good, be consistent and reflect well on everyone involved.

I thought it was wonderful, and figured I would put up a page for myself once I returned from my work at the illuminations festival. Much to my pleasant surprise, the wikimeisters went ahead and put up a page for me, with an outline of my background and work. I figured, what the hell, Iíll just copy the bio from my website onto this nice page theyíve made and head out to my festival, with the expectation that I would refine the page further when I returned.

Once out on the coast, I had a moment to check into the wiki and see how my page turned out. To my surprise, I found that a few things were missing. I couldnít remember what exactly was missing, but there were a few dangling sentence fragments I knew werenít there when I left. Unfortunately, my internet service and laptop werenít allowing me to do any wiki work, so I posted a comment about my befuddlement on my blog, the only place I had available to register my concern.

And, as I said, I learned where the flames are.

Turns out the wikimeisters decided that there shouldnít be any press quotes in the wiki, which is a perfectly sensible decision, since most press quotes are garbage. Presto Ė my quotes were eliminated, and I was left puzzling over the ways of the world.

For personal reasons, I have had to return home from the Outer Banks early, so there will be no more illuminations reports. Thatís the bad news. The good news is that I now have my usually reliable internet service and can behave like a gentleman at all times.

So hereís a wiki question for the meisters. Are all quotes necessarily bad?

Music is an art form, which makes it a subjective experience. Unlike an encyclopedia article on, say, the vibrational modes of isotopes, an article on music is missing essential information if it sticks religiously to the facts. In a sense, the subjective experience of how the music feels to the listener is the whole point.

Is the composer the best person to say how his or her music feels to the listener? I am very fortunate that Kyle Gann wrote the wiki article under my name Ė he brings enormous experience and skill to the task of describing music. But other composers may not be so fortunate. Should those composers attempt to describe how their music sounds to the listener? If they donít, they are leaving out essential information about the music. But if they do, they are bringing in a subjective point of view without the benefit of quotes to indicate that subjectivity.

So, again, are all quotes necessarily bad? Canít we imagine a quote that would illuminate the experience of hearing the music, while making it clear that the experience being described is that of one listener?

Mind you, Iím not lobbying for the restoration of quotes in my article Ė Iím perfectly happy with it as it stands. Iím not even advocating a change in wiki policy. I know, for one thing, that evaluating each quotation individually would take a ridiculous amount of time. And, as I said above, most press quotes aren't worth much.

Iím just reacting the way I always react when someone tells me that x is bad. I want to discuss the issue further, because for me, badness is never a simple thing.

But maybe it is my fate to be burned for that belief.