"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, October 16, 2006

In February, Eastern Michigan University is planning a festival of my music. My understanding at this point is that there will be three concerts, on three consecutive evenings, featuring six of my works: a duo, a trio, a quartet, a quintet, a wind ensemble piece and an orchestral piece.

Anthony Iannacone is organizing the event. He first contacted me almost three years ago, but it wasn’t until this past spring that we were able to confirm mutually workable dates.

I’ve not met Tony yet, but we’ve spoken a few times on the phone (actually, we’ve left one another a lot more voicemails than we’ve actually spoken). This week he gave me the tentative programs for the festival. I was surprised to find that they were considering performing Façade, a piece I wrote 23 years ago. The news brought back bittersweet memories.

Façade was premiered at a student composers concert when I was in the graduate program at Juilliard. The piece takes an 1890sish waltz -- kind of a salon melody -- and twists it through some increasingly irrational Straussian harmonic shifts until it completely shatters into inarticulate fragments. After a minute or two of stumbling about in confusion, it gradually reassembles itself into a fragile version of its former self.

This kind of musical surrealism wasn’t unheard of at the time, and it’s certainly become pretty commonplace since. I had no intention of creating a manifesto; I was just writing what I wanted to hear. So the reaction I got at the premiere really caught me off guard. People were angry, sarcastic, contemptuous.

A few days afterwards, a friend informed me that David Diamond was telling the students in all of his classes that they shouldn’t play my music. I made an appointment with him to find out what he was upset about. He sat with a seething grimace as I tried to explain my train of thought in the piece, saying only, “You can’t do that in music” before showing me the door.

Façade got quite a few performances in the early 1990s, but I don’t think it’s been played in almost ten years. Pulling together a perusal score to send to Tony has me looking back over it for the first time in awhile. Now, of course, I’m struck by the rudimentary instrumental writing – idiomatic enough, to be sure, but not as sensitive to the potential of the instruments as I would like to think I am now. But the piece certainly packs a nice sucker punch.

So off it goes to Ypsilanti.

David, wherever you are, rest in peace.