"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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Sunday, April 09, 2006
Theory Class

We had String Theory guru Brian Greene here last week. He met with our composers to explore strategies for breakthrough creative thinking. Each of the students gave an account of a cognitive leap in composition. Some reported better production under stressful conditions, others preferred to establish a very relaxed atmosphere. The common denominator was the ability to see past the details and find the larger patterns.

He also spent a little time giving (necessarily) superficial explanations of string theory, and how it differs and overlaps with chaos theory and fractal theory. He has a wonderful knack for grounding erudite topics in terms anyone can grasp. I know I came away with a clearer understanding of how these concepts relate (and don’t relate) to one another.

I hadn’t realized that Greene’s father was a composer (in addition to being a high school dropout and a vaudeville performer). Greene fils had a number of insights to share, although he was careful not to push the connections between composition and creativity in physics too much. He made it clear that he tended to prefer ideas that gave new perspectives to old notions. “Anyone can do something novel,” he said, “can you do something novel within strict limitations?”

Unfortunately, I had to slip out after the first hour to attend to other business. I understand that a politely contentious discussion ensued about the nature of existence. “It would be nice to believe in an afterlife and a soul,” Greene stated in his typically forthright manner, “but they don’t exist.”