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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Monday, April 27, 2009
Talking Through the Music

As I noted last Sunday, Iíve been painstakingly re-entering an entire score for an enormous piece I composed back in 1993. Iíve got about a week of work to go.

This piece was one of the first I wrote that incorporated spoken text. In fact, it may have been the very first, but Iím not going to bother looking that one up to make sure, because firstness is never all that interesting to me, even within my own work.

In the intervening years, Iíve written a number of pieces with spoken text. For the most part, theyíve been very successful. Some of them use spoken text in ways that disrupt normal concert-going expectations, and some of them simply use the text to tell an accompanied story. Measuring their success is a somewhat different exercise in each case.

But there are some poor souls out there who simply canít abide spoken text with their music. Somehow their brains shut down when presented with these two different forms of expression. I feel badly for these people, because the experience can be a very rich one for those of us who donít have those insurmountable boundaries.

Itís difficult for me to imagine, but I wonder sometimes if itís similar to my reaction to spatial music. With only one ear, I find music that relies on particular spatial arrangements kind of dull, because I canít organize what Iím hearing into specific locations, which seems to be a crucial part of the experience. Maybe thatís what happens to people whose brains canít process spoken text along with music Ė maybe the results just sound a little boring.

But I guess Iíll never know, because (when itís done well) I find the blend of music and spoken word one of the more intense experiences I can have.