"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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Sunday, January 13, 2008
first hearings

We all know how crucial it is for inexperienced composers to hear their music. I almost said “young composers,” but inexperience isn’t about age, necessarily. Of course, it’s important for all composers to hear their music, but for inexperienced composers every performance is a formative experience.

On Tuesday night, our woodwind faculty gave a concert that was in many ways typical of the music-making around here these days: one piece from the 19th century, two from the early 20th, two from the 1970s and four from the 21st century – including two premieres.

I’ll start with the premieres, since they were both works by students of mine. Our faculty had a reading session of student works in December, giving feedback on notation and idiomatic writing. At the conclusion, they chose pieces by James Stewart and Felix Ventouras to premiere on this concert. They (the performers) were so pleased with the results, they are planning to do the same thing next year, which is really great for us. I’m guessing our students will challenge them a bit more next time around – almost all of them were playing it safe, and I think they had an ear-opening experience when they heard the difficulty of the other pieces on the concert.

Like, for instance, Roshanne Etezady’s Glint for saxophone and clarinet, which is a fiendishly fast, virtuosic display piece. Etezady’s a member of the Minimum Security Composers Collective; this is the first work of hers I’ve heard. The performance sparkled just as the title might lead you to expect.

Igor Begelman (clarinet), Tadeu Coelho (flute) and Taimur Sullivan (saxophone) each played unaccompanied pieces on the program. Knowing them as I do, if you told me that they were going to play solo pieces, I would guess that Igor would play something Russian, Tadeu would play something cute, and Taimur would play something avant-garde/improvisatory. And that’s exactly what they did: we got Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for clarinet, Margaret Cornils Harlequin for flute, and Mai for saxophone by Ryo Noda. This last piece was the most enjoyable for me – Noda is a saxophonist himself, and found beautiful ways to incorporate shakuhachi-like inflections into the piece, a lovely work dedicated to his wife, whose name provided the title.