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, October 26, 2007
Esoteric and bourgeois

Iím in the initial stages of embarking on a major multimedia project, one that I will be spending much of the next two years on. In early discussions with potential collaborators, itís become clear that the project can take one of two possible paths, which I think of as esoteric and bourgeois.

The esoteric path is fantastical, messy, open-ended, and something few other composers would attempt. The bourgeois path is cleaner, grounded in everyday reality, and something many other composers might take a crack at.

The benefit of taking the esoteric path is the approval of my respected colleagues and the possibility of the honors one is occasionally accorded within the profession. The drawback is the likelihood that relatively few people will find what Iíve done to be of interest.

The benefit of taking the bourgeois path is the possibility of greater audience approval and more performances. The drawback is less respect from the profession.

Which one do I prefer? Actually, neither. My colleagues already treat me well, and audiences are already kind to me. Another honor, another performance Ė they are always highly appreciated, but Iím not starving for either, and neither one is a substantial motivation for undertaking a multi-year project.

More importantly, both paths are equally challenging, from a compositional standpoint. Despite conventional new-music wisdom, innovative work isnít really more difficult to pull off than more traditional stuff. There are lots of other parameters that can make a piece difficult to write, or not difficult to write, besides its uniqueness quotient.

So which path will I take? Iím mulling both of them over, and Iím gradually accruing ideas. Iíll make a decision when I get hit with that one idea that just wonít let me go, the idea that I canít resist sinking my teeth into for the long haul.

At that point Iíll know which path my idea will take me on, and who will like it, and who wonít.

Will I ever question my decision? Almost certainly. I question everything I do.

But it wonít matter in the end. Ultimately, I have to satisfy the person who climbs out of my side of the bed every morning. And he seems most comfortable when heís enjoying his work, despite the benefits or fallout.