"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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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Au point

Make-up time. I still haven’t written about the lovely performance I got on Feb. 10 of Still Point at Mannes. The performers were mezzo Theodora Hanslowe, violist Hsin-Yun Huang and pianist Thomas Sauer. And it was particularly touching to have the poet, Shona Simpson, in attendance.

Theodora has a perfect blend of creamy voice and flawless diction. Hsin-Yun has a sound and musicianship to kill for. And Thomas has the full range of touch, from lightest feathers to thickest chest hair.

As I told the audience, Still Point has gone on to a “number of performances” since its memorable premiere in 2007. Composer trick: I didn’t tell them that the “number” was two.

It was also fun to hear Kurtag’s Hommage a Robert Schumann for clarinet, viola and piano on the same concert, with its quirkier-than-thou structure of five very brief (some just a few seconds long) movements followed by an extended isorhythmic motet in the style of Machaut. And what better way to end a motet-movement-in-homage-to-Schumann than to have the clarinetist (Todd Palmer, in this case) punctuate the proceedings with a gentle tap on a bass drum?

Last Thursday, the performers and I convened with Judith Sherman at the American Academy of Arts and Letters to record Still Point. I’ve had four recording sessions with Judy, and they’ve all been ear-opening experiences. Her attention to detail is legendary, and her gentle but exacting manner with musicians is always a recipe for success. I won’t get the results of this session for another couple of months, but I know she will have done everything humanly possible to make me sound good once again.