"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, March 02, 2009
The Infinite Sphere, March 09

I’ve crossed the tipping point in the composition of my fourth string quartet. After months of shifting things around into different combinations, all of the elements of the piece have fallen into their proper places. Now it’s just a matter of polishing the surfaces – making all the micro decisions that will help clarify the macro structure.

I had been planning for years to write a quartet that emphasized circular forms when, about a year ago, I came across Pascal’s reference to an “infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” That image clarified my thoughts, eventually leading to an enormous, 25-minute rondo made up of seven independent movements.

Rondo forms are characterized by a recurrent A theme interspersed with complementary Bs, Cs, and sometimes even Ds. My recurring A, though, is not a recurring theme, but rather a recurring musical device. The musical device is round technique – the type of circular imitation found in Row, Row, Row Your Boat or Frère Jacques – everyone sings the same thing over and over again, just starting at different times.

The complementary B, C and D sections are mini-rondo forms, 3-5 minutes each. The whole thing plays out in two movements:
1. Round - Rondo – Round – Rondo
2. Round – Rondo – Round
There are thematic recurrences among the various sections, so that the overall thematic structure is this:
The final round plays the first against its inversion. In addition, circular techniques abound on every level of the composition – three of the rounds feature imitation in a circle of fifths, and a recurrent coda section is nothing more than a circle of fifths that accelerates into tonal soup.

Finally, the whole piece, in keeping with the spirit of the Classical rondo, is indebted to the harmonies and rhythms of popular music. It’s easily the most jovial large-scale work I’ve ever produced.

Completion date: July 1.
Premiere: January 2010.