"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

Blogs I Like

Sunday, April 06, 2008
It's not music

In my first year of grad school, I had the misfortune of enrolling in three courses whose professors all had a similar idea on how to start a class. On the first day, all three of them began with the question, “How would you define music?” Then they went around the room, giving each student a chance to answer.

Once all of us had been given an opportunity to fumble for a definition, the teachers demonstrated their boundless wisdom by asserting that music had to have personal expression, which of course is nothing like a definition, and is even tough to defend as a thesis. In a nutshell, Beethoven is music, what is piped into the grocery store is not.

In the first class, when my turn came to define music, I gave a standard avant-gardist’s reply for the time: “Organized sound.” But I knew that was a poor substitute for real thought. In the second class, I said, “I don’t know,” which was more accurate, but left the professor thinking I didn’t care, which isn’t the same thing at all.

By the third class, I had had enough. When my turn came to answer, I said, “What are we trying to achieve with a definition? Are we trying to separate out those things that are worthy of our attention by calling them Music? We can’t simply say that what we like is music and anything we don’t like is something else. Or, to put it another way, if we prove that Shakespeare’s Macbeth is not music, what have we accomplished? Does that give us an excuse to ignore it?”

The teacher smiled, and nodded, and went on to the next student, who said something about melody and harmony. When all the students had taken their turn, he proceeded to expound on his belief that music was all about personal expression, or some such nonsense.

I remember my frustration from that day long ago every time a student says something I’m not quite following. It helps me empathize with students who feel like they are not being heard, and reminds me to make sure I’m listening to everything they say.

Of course, that excludes the mutterings under their breath that they don’t want me to hear.