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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Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Intuition = Instinct

Over the years, Iíve heard discussions of the value of musical intuition that range from complete dismissal to unwavering reliance. But despite the varying opinions on this topic, there is often a fundamental misunderstanding of what intuition actually is.

Intuition is, very simply, instinct. I donít think anyone would deny that human beings have instincts, certainly nobody who has watched a baby suck for the first time. Science has made great strides in uncovering the causes of instinctual response, but we still have yet to discover exactly how instinct operates.

Nonetheless, it is time to drop the notion that instinct is simply a misunderstanding of rational processes. Those are two separate phenomena.

Forget also the idea that intuition is somehow the same thing as emotion Ė we may have intuitive emotional responses to things, just as we may intuitively reach for rational explanations to events in our lives. That doesnít make any of those three strands of cognition the same.

The homing pigeon doesnít, as far as we can tell, equate home with happiness, nor does it attempt to find reasons for returning to the roost. It simply does what it knows it must.

Human instinct is less sophisticated than that of most other mammals, and we are far less reliant on instinct to get by in the world. In fact, music may be one of the most powerful payoffs of human instinct. Music certainly doesnít exist simply to fulfill some rational need.

Humans have, for good reason, well-developed rational faculties, and we shouldnít hesitate to make the most of them. At the same time, we have rudimentary instincts that Ė because they are so poorly understood -- deserve to be developed and maximized. How we bring these skills into play with one another will affect the way our music works, or doesnít work, as well as how effectively we are able to continue creating.

Trust your instincts, but donít make the mistake of believing that trusting your instincts means mistrusting your ability to think through a step-by-step process. The complete engagement of intellect and instinct -- thatís part of what it means to be fully sentient beings.