"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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Saturday, December 01, 2007

I’ve got a major new project underway: three orchestral pieces, which may be played together or separately, on the elusive and contradictory figure of Robert Schumann. Commissioned by the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra, this trilogy – Fantasiestück, The Marriage Diary and Florestan and Eusebius – will be premiered in May 2010, marking the Schumann bicentennial.

Schumann’s not the most popular figure these days, but I’ve always found him intriguing. When he was at his best, there was nobody like him for fantastical experiments in melody, harmony and rhythm.

I also find Schumann the man both fascinating and disturbing – a figure of oddly matched parts. He was a radical and a homebody. He was a writer and composer who chose the latter path somewhat late. He was incredibly arrogant and oddly shy. His music criticism can shift from strictly rational to intensely sensual in a butterfly’s heartbeat.

Okay, I couldn’t resist the butterfly image – because I think the metaphor of the butterfly’s metamorphosis is a key to understanding Schumann’s life and work. It plays a major role in part three of my trilogy, Florestan and Eusebius – I’m even rewriting a famous Heine elegy to include a set of butterfly wings in the culminating passage:
Um mein Bett erhebt sich die Hülle,
Drin tanzt die junge Schmetterling;
Sie tanzt die Schritte der Liebe –
Die Flügel erscheinen in Fülle
And Schumann’s final disease, which put him in an asylum for his last three years, brought him both raving lunacy and intense solitude -- he wasn’t even permitted to see his wife Clara until just before he died.

At this point, I’ve sketched some of the music, and given a lot of thought to some of the themes – musical and otherwise – I’ll be exploring. I’ll be working intermittently over the course of the coming year, then everything else will be set aside for about six months so I can completely immerse myself in the process. ETA is fall 2009.

You can read more about this trilogy here. And if you know any other orchestras that might be interested in this, drop me a note!