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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Monday, July 10, 2006
Andante interrotto

The following is the fourth part of a chronicle I am keeping on the composition of my second symphony. For the first three parts, click 6/16/2006, 6/20/2006 and 7/6/2006 in the left-hand Archive column.

As I wrote in part two of this chronicle, Iíve been planning for some time to include spoken narrative in one of the movements of this symphony. I wanted the narrative to describe the moment when a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle, using that moment as a catalyst to head in several directions at once.

A few weeks ago, though, I realized that a second symphony centered on creating new life out of destruction would immediately call up comparisons to another composerís second symphony for some listeners. I hastened to look up the text of Mahlerís Resurrection to make sure I wasnít trodding too closely in his footsteps. The first 8 lines, of course, are by Klopstock; the rest are Mahlerís own words:
Rise again, yes, you shall rise again,
my dust, after brief rest!
Immortal life
will be given by Him who called you!
You are sown to bloom again.
The Lord of the harvest goes
and gathers sheaves of us,
who have died.
O believe, my heart, believe:
Nothing is lost to you!
All you have desired is yours, yes, yours!
Yours, what you have loved and fought for!
O believe, you were not born in vain!
You have not lived or suffered in vain!
All that is created must perish.
All that has perished rises again.
Cease trembling!
Prepare to live!
O Pain, all-pervading,
I have escaped from you!
O Death, all-conquering,
now you are conquered!
With wings which I have won
In loveís ardent striving,
I shall soar upwards
to the light which no eye has penetrated!
I shall die in order to live!
Rise again, yes, you shall rise again,
my heart, in an instant!
Your beating
shall lead you to God!
Mahlerís rising heart put my heart at ease Ė I donít think Iíve used that many exclamation points in my entire life, much less in one poem. That kind of declarative tone might have been good stuff for Gustav, but it was far from what I had in mind. I was more interested in capturing the mystery of a transitional moment than expounding on a belief.

I was also interested in creating asymmetrical rhyme schemes and off-kilter rhythms in the narrative, as a metaphorical equivalent to the experience of being slammed out of a predictable trajectory -- looking at the world upside down.

So here is the current draft of my text. It will probably be tweaked over the course of the summer, especially as the music that surrounds it -- which is a quiet, contemplative theme and variations -- is coming into focus:
Singing Silver

I was crossing a road on an autumn afternoon when a spark in the pavement caught my eye,
sun low in the sky.

I dropped to the ground on one red knee and peered into the black and gold,
as the day grew old.

Sixteen thousand jewels I found shattering the autumn light,
while the air prepared to greet the night.

Sixteen thousand diamonds calling colors to the sky
Sixteen thousand stars and crowns astounding to the eye

But I knew the ones youíd love.

I will bring them home to show to you.
I will bring them home to give to you.
I will bring them home.

I was crossing a road on an autumn afternoon when a lonely tone caught my ear,
a careful keening, strangely near.

I stopped and listened to the sky, sun angling to my right,
clutching at the night.

Sixteen thousand sounds I found shattering the autumn air,
as the day rolled over in bewildered prayer.

Sixteen thousand fragments tumbling through the atmosphere
Sixteen thousand jangled dreams rebounding in the ear

But I knew the ones youíd love.

I will bring them home to show to you.
I will bring them home to give to you.
I will bring them home.

I was crossing a road on an autumn afternoon when a flash of metal spun me round,
and up off the ground.

I thrust my arms out left and right, sun darting under me,
fleeing westerly.

And then I saw him, sitting near, laughing gently at the blurring cars
Singing silver in my ear, like sixteen thousand dangled stars.

Sixteen thousand silent smiles clenched within his fist
Sixteen thousand aspirations stumbling through the mist.

And I knew that he would love you.

Come home with me, I have someone to show you.
Come home with me, I have someone to give you.
Come home.