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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Thursday, April 19, 2007
Troubadour

Some of my favorite pieces of music come out of the lied and opera traditions. Iíve composed a number of works in these two traditions, with varying success. But I donít have the kind of allegiance to either tradition that allows me to overlook their shortcomings.

I gave the second performance of Singing Silver on Tuesday night. It took me a few months to realize that the piece really wants to sidestep these two traditions Ė lied and opera Ė and connect with a much older tradition of blending music, poetry and storytelling.

Singing Silver is really a child of the troubadour tradition.

The singing in Singing Silver is part of the instrumental texture; the essence of the piece is in the interplay between spoken text and music. Itís at once a more ancient and more contemporary way of combining words and notes.

First performances are often opportunities for me to workshop pieces, to find their kinks and fully understand their strengths. The first performance of Singing Silver on the Sequenza21 concert last fall was an excellent case in point. I had an opportunity to feel and understand the music from within a specific performance.

Iíve reworked much of the piece, integrating and clarifying the roles of text and music. For the second performance, or the first performance of the newly constituted work, I had several hours of rehearsal in the hall over two days Ė an impossible luxury at the Sequenza21 concert Ė with people I trusted giving me feedback on balances and interpretation. I was able to watch a DVD of a rehearsal, in order to make decisions about sound quality, stage setup, and overall artistic impact. We had the chance to design the kind of amplification that would work best for the environment and for the communicative needs of the piece.

For Tuesdayís performance, I was seated in a spotlight stage left, performing the text from memory, with the four musicians (soprano, cello, horn, amplified guitar) seated together stage right. Between us, the stage was dark, with fragments of the text projected onto a screen, fading in and out as I recited the words.

For the performance, the 300-seat hall was practically full, and it felt like I heard positive feedback from everyone who was there.

Iíve had my music performed all over, and there have been some mighty fine performances through the years, for which Iím truly grateful. But nothing beats the kind of oversight I had for every parameter of the performance on Tuesday night, an oversight that is tough to find on the road. To get that kind of control, I would have to be the kind of selfish, demanding person I wouldnít feel comfortable living with. Here, I get what I want because people trust me, they trust the product Iím working toward, and they honestly wanted to help Ė and thatís truly gratifying.

Not that everything came out perfectly, of course -- there are a couple of small things I would do differently next time -- but on the whole, a very satisfying event.