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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Friday, June 01, 2007
Innovation

In his last quartets and sonatas, Beethoven made many unprecedented choices in form and vocabulary, choices that broke dramatically with convention, yet somehow made perfect sense. These innovations had two profound impacts on subsequent generations: first, they enlarged the scope of resources later composers could access to their own ends. Second, Beethovenís innovations set a new standard of originality for composers to be measured against.

The new resources Beethoven uncovered in his late period have not been exhausted to this day, although Iím sure that some would argue otherwise. But it is his legacy of originality that has had an even more profound effect, both positive and negative. The negative effect can most often be found in young composers who quickly absorb the lesson that their music will be judged for its unconventionality, to which they naturally respond by casting about for original ideas.

Unfortunately, this quest for originality doesnít get far before running aground on the shoals of Been Done Before. Itís a discouraging place for a young composer to founder; if it happens repeatedly, it often leads to discouragement and depression.

The antidote? Remember: Beethoven never dispensed with a convention he didnít first master. For every Grosse Fuge, for every Hammerklavier, for every Heiliger Dankgesang there are scores of simple binary dances, minuets, variations, fugatos, etc. that fulfill and ultimately transcend their inherited traditions.

True innovation presupposes mastery, and mastery, by definition, takes time. The secret is simple: find the things you love most in music and devote your life to them.

The biggest fish swim in the deepest waters.