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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Wednesday, August 03, 2005
The Dating Game

I seem to be on a binge with terminology, so hereís another diatribe.

In some circles, the worst criticism a piece of music can receive is to be labeled dated.

But Iíve always felt that all music goes through a period of sounding dated Ė when the novelty has worn off, but we donít yet have enough distance to appreciate other qualities.

Music thatís 20 to 40 years old has a good chance of sounding dated to me. There are many wonderful exceptions, of course.

When I was a student in the 1970s and 80s, I had a hard time listening to a lot of music from the 1930s to the 1960s. It often came across like a cheap Hollywood soundtrack or gee-whiz sci-fi. Now I can listen to this same music and hear which pieces truly cut to the core of our beings, and which ones are merely messages from a lost planet.

Meanwhile, the music from the 60s to the 80s that used to keep me on the edge of my seat now sounds Ė well, dated.

Part of this phenomenon is the natural result of young musicians constantly reacting to their immediate forebears. The last thing most 20-somethings want to do is sound like their parentsí generation. As we get older, we often come to appreciate our parentsí generation more, while finding the passions of our own youth distasteful. Music that may be perfectly viable in every way can attach itself to unattractive associations, based on where and who we were when we first heard it.

So new things come before us all the time, pushing the old new things aside. Which is a good, natural process, but also a problem for all of us. One of the reasons new works no longer enter into any kind of performance ďcanonĒ is because when they are no longer new they are deemed worthless -- even the early works of living composers.

But Iím always careful to respect the accomplishments of those who have come before me, even if I have no intention of following in their footsteps. Their time comes, their time goes, and perhaps it will come again. Why expend negative energy on criticizing music for being dated, if we are all destined for same purgatory?

As the saying goes, Choose your enemies carefully, for you may come to resemble them.