"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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Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Randall Woolf

Randall Woolf was in town much of last week. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, there is a good reason: Randy is one of those composers whose artistic development has been pretty focused, but whose professional profile is all over the map – which is to say that he can’t easily be pegged within a particular milieu.

Whether he is composing for members of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, orchestrating the film
American Psycho, or creating works for the children’s ensemble Tales and Scales, Randy’s music occupies a terrain both familiar and yet fresh. His preferred medium seems to be the combination of sampled sound and live performers.

Listening to Woolf’s music is akin to looking at a familiar photograph in which each pixel has been magnified. You recognize the sources, but your attention is deepened and blurred through the detailed treatments. He likes to take vernacular styles – anything from hip-hop to country western – and mix them into metrically complex textures, feeding on their inherent energy while simultaneously commenting on that energy and its cultural context.

Imagine Steve Reich focusing his lens on the fine details in life instead of the grand scheme and you have a glimpse of one important facet of Woolf’s world.

Ransom Wilson led our orchestra in a performance of Woolf’s
Hee Haw on Saturday night. Scored for chamber orchestra, two singers and sampler, Hee Haw subjects square dance music to sudden shifts in tone and perspective, from the caller’s exhortations to an extended passage of twisted fiddling. It’s funny and invigorating. I couldn’t help thinking, halfway through, that the shifting perspectives and angles ended up producing a cubist -- rather than a square -- dance.

Randy played a lot of his music for us in Composition Seminar on Friday. Go check out his work on myspace. I enjoyed all of it, but the piece that killed me was Everything is Green, with Rinde Eckart reading a story by David Foster Wallace accompanied by sampled sound and a live flute-and-piano duo. Much of Woolf’s work bristles with layers of energetic activity, but this piece let its poignant story unfold with a lovely balance of intricate yet transparent commentary.