"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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Friday, April 18, 2008
translating beliefs

Who is your enemy?

Some composers wage war against the Classical canon, seeing it as an obstacle to their own artistic fulfillment.

Others decry pop music for dominating the collective conscious with easy-to-swallow formulas.

Still others vent their spleens at complicated, cerebral music, for fostering a general mistrust of new work.

All of these stances are based on reasonable causes. Unfortunately, when we align ourselves with any of these causes, we can end up spending more time pointing fingers than finding solutions.

In a remarkably complex and beautiful essay called Hot Air Gods,* Curtis White described the challenge of “translating beliefs,” of finding commonalities in traditionally antagonistic parties. He cites the recent “turn of Christian evangelicals to a politics that includes environmentalism” -- which they call “Creation Care.” In other words, previously antithetical belief systems – the religious right and the environmental left – have found a language through which they can achieve common objectives. Through “Creation Care,” as White notes, the world becomes “if not something holy, then something that ought to be the object of great and abiding Care.”

Can we imagine a similar approach to help us transcend adversarial stances in the music world? After all, all of us want the same thing – enhanced artistic experiences.

Finding the language to bridge these chasms is no easy task, though, and probably one that will take constant tweaking.

Making it even more difficult is our own seemingly boundless enthusiasm for pointing fingers. As White puts it, “Unhappily, we have very little interest in the challenge of translation, largely because we very much wish to remain cordially at one another’s throats.”

*Curtis White: Hot Air Gods, Harpers, Dec. 2007