"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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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mark Engebretson taught a guest seminar here last Friday. The occasion was a prelude to the premiere of his Deliriade, a concerto for flute and saxophone quartet, on Saturday night. The piece was the first of our new LINKS commissions, sponsored by the Kenan Institute for the Arts.

Yes, you read right: a concerto for flute accompanied by saxophone quartet. Itís the kind of commission one has to scratch oneís head at: just how many performances can this piece expect to get? And further, just how substantial can a piece be with that premise (instrumentation, concerto)? But that was the nature of the commission Ė a piece to match up supervirtuoso flutist Tadeu Coelho with the PRISM Quartet.

More about the piece later, but the seminar was really intriguing. Mark started out his life as a virtuoso saxophonist himself, so he was certainly the right man for the job. He showed us sketches and talked through his creative process, illustrating points with passages from his scores, and playing midi versions of the passages that make some sort of sense with midi (which doesnít, of course, include the extended passage in which the saxophonists remove their mouthpieces and blow through the instruments).

Here was the most interesting thing: Mark described a meeting he had with Tadeu early in the process. They spent an hour talking about the piece, then jammed together a bit. Mark recorded the conversation and the jam session, and referred back to the recording throughout the process of composition. His goal was to get as much of Tadeu into the piece as possible, without sacrificing his own artistic vision.

And I thought that was a pretty interesting way to go about it.