"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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Monday, December 12, 2005

Ken Frazelle has a delightful tone of voice he uses from time to time, in asides – it’s a murmuring monotone, an understatement that signifies volumes.

That tone of voice came to me a few nights ago as we celebrated Ken’s 50th birthday with an evening of his music. It’s wonderful to hear a subtle tone of voice become a defining aspect of an artistic language. Ken has a knack for introducing ideas in the most unassuming ways – a note, repeated, blossoms into a brief, hesitant figure, which grows like a fruited vine spreading over an entire landscape.

This kind of genesis was in evidence throughout the evening – in the cello sonata he wrote for Yo Yo Ma, the enormous flute concerto he wrote for Paula Robison, excerpts from the Bill T. Jones dance piece Still/Here, and a new work Ken premiered at the piano: Inventions to Marden.

This was my first opportunity to hear the Still music of Still/Here, the multimedia work about terminal illness, much of it created by AIDS patients, which became notorious in the mid-90s when Arlene Croce, the dance critic for New Yorker magazine, wrote about her refusal to attend a performance, saying, “I can't review someone I feel sorry for or hopeless about."

The music, written for Odetta to sing with the Lark String Quartet and percussionist Bill Finizio, is certainly over the top. Which is to be expected – you can’t set lines like “Slash, poison or burn/Almost like burying a child/A part of me has died” with anything less than your most electrifying stuff.

By way of tribute to mark the occasion, Ken’s friends and admirers -- who thronged Watson Hall beyond capacity, so that extra chairs had to be set up in the back -- pitched in over $40,000 to create a Kenneth Frazelle Endowed Scholarship in Composition at the North Carolina School of the Arts. How magnificent that a little new music, like a murmured aside, can elicit a generosity of response that will benefit young composers for generations to come.