"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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Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Notes Part 8 Seminar Part Two

To pick up where I left off in Part 5, I followed my discussion of compositional process by playing a recording of Amadeus ex machina. They pored over the score. When it was over, they sat in silence, which took me a bit by surprise -- in similar situations, I always find a way to express appreciation, or at least encouragement.

Composition Seminar. Radvilovich is seated third from the left.

I decided to talk about my evolving, complex relationship with my cultural heritage. I showed them the first movement of my first string quartet, which builds a sonata form out of a conflict between two bitter parodies: the first theme is a mindless, noisy lampoon of popular music; the second theme is a fussy, refined-yet-clumsy takeoff on 20th-century neoclassicism. I explained my approach to sonata form, which is less about pouring new wine into old bottles than it is about setting a process, a formal dynamic, in motion, then letting it play out in time.

I put on a recording of the Mendelssohn String Quartet playing the piece. Again, they pored over the score. Again, no response when the music ended.

Uncertain, I asked if they would like to hear more music or if they had any questions. Radvilovich indicated that I should play one more piece. So I played the slow movement of Furies and Muses, an aria about the desire, (as opposed to the ability) to sing. (I posted this movement here a month ago)

This score provoked a bit of Russian Discussion -- while the music was playing, which was mildly annoying. When it was over, Radvilovich began asking questions. He did not look at me as he spoke, but rather talked down at the table between us. His questions were not the friendly softball tosses I have fielded many times in the past. I suppose it was closer to hockey: all flying pucks and aggressive hip checks.