"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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Monday, June 15, 2009
Flattening out the back of my head

Back to my fifth quartet, after a two-month hiatus. While I was focused on other things, the back of my mind was squinching up in discomfort over the final movement of quartet no. 5. Got to get rid of that squinch -- it was having a nasty impact on my hairstyle. Here was the problem:

The fifth quartet is obsessed with that most obsessive of forms, Variation. The first movement is a straightforward theme and variations. The second movement is a chaconne, or variations on a harmonic progression. The third movement is a passacaglia, or variations over a repeated 8-note figure.

The fourth and final movement, like the first, is a theme and variations. The version I left off with two months ago was good, but a little too well-behaved, Iím afraid. Iíve come to realize that this movement needs to both reflect and transcend the theme it is based on. To do that, I need to push the pedal down more on the fantasy side of fantasy-variations. This was the movement, after all, that immediately precedes the predawn twilight. Logic needs to take a back seat to something wilder.

Something wilder Ė Iíve been listening all this week to crwth music. It seems that the fantastical predawn is going to transform my Welsh tune into a haunted hybrid.

And so, inadvertently, this movement is providing a link to the as-yet-unwritten sixth quartet, which is going to be obsessed with fantasy. It will be the last quartet of this cycle, and it has always worried me the most, because from the beginning (1998) I have had a less clear notion of how number 6 was going to play out. Maybe the new direction my fifth quartet is taking will point the way.