"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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Wednesday, April 04, 2007
So what's the story?

“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” -- Roger C. Schank, cognitive scientist

I’ve never had much interest in taking an architectural or sculptural approach to music. There are composers who can think spatially about their music, but for me time (music’s medium) and space (the medium of the visual arts) are not equivalent.

Far closer to the way I experience music is the way I experience narrative: events build one on another, leading us from the surface into the depths of an imagined world.

Many composers shudder at the idea of telling stories with music. Certainly, Mickey-Mousing – creating a story by mimicking real sounds with an orchestra – can get tiresome very quickly. But there are many other ways in which stories can be told.

We have to begin by distinguishing between two often-confused terms: story and plot. There is overlap, but they are not synonymous. Plot–driven stories can be very effective, although they don’t tend to be my cup of tea. Hollywood blockbusters are often plot-driven: characters are stock heroes and villains whose thoughts and actions are dictated by the necessities of conflict, climax and resolution.

Again, these stories can be very effective in a visceral way, but they don’t usually leave me with much to savor.

Character-driven stories offer a nice contrast. Individuals are introduced, each with a recognizable personality – not as types, but as fully realized, living beings. These characters interact and develop, and the story evolves from their interaction.

What happens is less important than who happens.

I find this a very effective analogy to the way I experience music. Ideas are introduced, hopefully vivid ideas that seem somehow true yet fresh to my ears. They interact with one another, and I am drawn ever deeper into their world.