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, September 13, 2006
Ravenous

Iíve always admired composers who are ravenous listeners, devouring new scores and recordings at a prodigious rate. I admire their curiosity, their hunger, and their encyclopedic knowledge.

I used to be a ravenous listener. Itís astonishing to me now to think of how much of my teens and twenties were spent with enormous headphones clamped over my ears, poring over scores when I could get a hold of them, trying to imagine how each sound looked on the page when I couldnít. I always emerged from trips to Patelsonís with an armload of piggy-bank busting scores, music from a thousand years ago, from another continent, from around the corner, from last week.

For my doctoral exam, we had a listening list of over 800 pieces, all genres, all eras. Iím the only person I knew at the time who tracked down recordings of every piece and dutifully listened, taking notes.

But something happened in my early thirties Ė I had had enough. My mind was so full of other peopleís music, it was time to peel it all away so I could hear my own voice.

Now I spend almost no time listening to recordings Ė maybe one or two new disks a month. I feel guilty about this, like Iím shirking some terrible responsibility. I also rationalize that I more than make up for it by attending 50-80 live performances a year.

The risk I am taking is that of being out of touch with what other people consider the most important artistic issues of the day. The benefit? Iím playing my own music in my head every minute, and each passing year brings me closer to a more precise understanding of the sounds I need to bring to life.

On my more confident days, I believe I laid a strong foundation of repertoire in my early years, and am reaping the rewards of all my careful studies.

On my less confident days? I find myself posting little apologies, like this one, on an infinite number of curves.