"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.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
This Saturday night I’m having a premiere of a piece with an unusual backstory.
Some friends of mine, a couple here in town, inaugurated a chamber music series in their home a couple of years back. They pack 40-50 people into their living room, dining room and another adjoining room while the musicians gather around their Blüthner piano.
The husband is a doctor and the wife is an English professor and writer. Last spring, she approached me with a sonnet she had written in honor of her husband. She wanted to commission me to set the sonnet to music for their chamber series. Since her husband is an amateur violist, I set the piece for mezzo, viola and piano.
She presented the score to her husband for his birthday last Thursday, then sent me this note:
Jonathan spent the whole evening after we gave him the manuscript, going over every note. He had never conceived of anything like this, and I had to keep telling him the timetable, and what order we did everything in, and who knew what when, and we had such a laugh when he realized that when we were all over at your house you had done such a good job keeping the secret! And then I got to tell him about the planning for the concert, and again he could hardly believe it. Anyway, it couldn't have gone better, as a gift I mean. I don't think I'll ever top that one.
Can a composer have a more gratifying reception for a new work than that? I’d trade a thousand anonymous ovations for this.
I wrote about my work on Still Point
a bit in June here
, but it was still a surprise then, so I couldn’t give any details. I just love the poem -- and now I can share it:
The days rush by in fleets like drifts of clouds.
We mean to note them, find their shapes or plot
their known locations, call their names out loud,
but they are here before we know they’re not.
A flock of starlings wheels and turns and dives
as one, the individual birds suppressed
by boundless number; seamlessly they fly
till darkness forces them, like us, to rest.
I’ve heard that when you die your brain reviews
your life, and pauses on the scenes that mean
the most. But what if days, like clouds, refuse
to stop? Like starlings, won’t alight, be seen?
I seek the one still point in all the roiling air.
I close my eyes, and you are there.
-- Shona Simpson