"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.

Visit Lawrence Dillon's Web Site

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Aleck Karis was our guest in Composition Seminar a couple of weeks ago. Aleck has made a name for himself as a pianist unfazed by the thorniest of contemporary scores – as the pianist for Speculum Musicae, he’s long been associated with music of Davidovsky, Carter and Cage.

Now teaching at UCSD, Karis was in town to play a program of music by Davidovsky and two of his pupils, Edward Jacobs and Michael Rothkopf.

His topic in Seminar was contemporary piano technique. He began with an historical overview, addressing fundamental developments in piano technique from Cristofori through Debussy. Then he launched into a catalogue of extended techniques. He brought copies for everyone of a wonderful chart he had devised, showing exactly which harmonics and muted tones are possible on the piano strings.

Aleck also talked about the basic principles of idiomatic piano writing, which I think was particularly helpful to many of our students with limited keyboard proficiency. In this, as in all of his explanations, he was very clear, and very attuned to the needs of his audience, which consisted of about thirty composers and pianists.

Finally, he played the second movement of Birtwistle’s Harrison’s Clocks, a piece that demands fleet fingers and mind-numbing concentration, which Karis appears to have in abundant supply.

seminar photos by Steve Davis