"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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Saturday, February 14, 2009
Half-Day in LA

Back from NYC, and now I can report on the twelve hours I spent in Los Angeles on February 1st.

The occasion for my visit was a performance by violinist Danielle Belén at the Colburn School of Music. Danielle played six of my pieces – two solo works, three with pianist David Fung, and one with violist Miguel Hernandez. Although I like to attend performances of my music whenever possible, I had an added incentive for making this trip: after the performance, Danielle was off to Toronto to record all of my violin music, and I wanted to get some input into her interpretations up front.

I met Danielle (for the first time) in the Colburn lobby; she took me upstairs to a rehearsal. She is, by the way, even more lovely in person than in her photos. In the rehearsal, it quickly became apparent that my music was in very good hands. Joined by violist Miguel Hernandez (of the Harlem Quartet) for Bacchus Chaconne, Danielle easily demonstrated that she had the monster technique to handle all of the piece’s challenges, the intelligence to ask all the right questions, and the artistic sensitivity to find just the right sound for every nuance.

The violin-viola duo was followed by a rehearsal of Façade, with pianist David Fung. Façade has subtle tempo shifts every few measures, all of which have to be “felt” – I wrote it at a time when I had decided that intuitive tempo changes are much more interesting to listen to than metric modulations. Danielle definitely has a very special feeling for how this piece should flow. By now, she and David had played it together dozens of times. When they finished playing for me, I told her -- and I repeat it here -- their performance was downright scary.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to rehearse all the pieces before the concert, but we got through enough for me to know that I would only have a few minor suggestions afterwards. I’ve been lucky enough to have many excellent performances of my music, but some of them have been more a matter of putting every note in the right place than “getting” the music on every level. Danielle puts all the notes in the right places, AND grasps every layer of meaning.

The concert took place right during the Super Bowl, so it was nice to get a good turnout my first (and hopefully last) time going toe-to-toe with Bruce Springsteen. I was happy to have my niece Raquel and her new husband keeping me company. Danielle played magnificently. Afterwards, the great Robert Lipsett gave me a tour of Jascha Heifitz’s studio, designed by Lloyd Wright in 1946. When Heifitz’s Beverly Hills home was demolished in the 1980s, this studio, which was fifteen steps from the house, was dismantled and stored, later to be installed in a lobbyish area above Zipper Hall. It’s a fantastic monument of mid-century modernism, complete with redwood-panelled, built-in furniture and an imposing fireplace.

Heifitz studio, with RCA dog guarding the entrance

And, of course, no parallel walls, for a wonderful acoustic.

Interior of Heifitz studio

Later, over dinner, I gave Danielle some notes on interpretation and we talked through plans for the recording. She is chock-full of good ideas. Then it was off to the airport for the red-eye -- appropriately named in this case, since I was up all night with a mind reeling from taking in impressions of three different countries (Midland-Odessa, Houston and Los Angeles) in the space of 24 hours.