James Dillon’s work has garnered wide acclaim since the early 1980’s for its ambitious demands, imaginative textures and thoughtful, careful craft. Championed by virtuosi and by the world’s leading orchestras and chamber ensembles, Dillon projects an unmistakable voice consistently recognized for its sophisticated blending of an impressive array of influences. He has been awarded numerous commissions, honorary posts and in 2011 became the most celebrated winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award when his monumental Nine Rivers cycle earned him his 4th RPS award for large scale work – more than any other composer in the society’s 200-year history.
It is therefore all the more remarkable that Dillon is almost entirely self-taught in composition, his only academic degree coming in the form of an honorary doctorate from the University of Huddersfield in 2003.
The triptych [from Greek tri- ‘three’ + ptychē ‘fold’] holds for me a certain fascination. Perhaps it’s the symbolism, perhaps the symmetry? I first explored the form in the early 1980s. Here I differentiate the triptych as a three-fold work from the simple tripartite design. Originally the term was used for the ‘folding’ three-leaved wax writing tablets of Ancient Rome which were written on with a stylus and thus could be erased and overwritten. Pictorially of course we associate the triptych with the great medieval and early-Renaissance (three-sectioned) altarpieces which could be displayed ‘open’ or ‘closed’. The ‘New York Triptych’ explores ideas of ‘change’ and ‘duration’ between non-musical material from the two earlier triptychs is pre-recorded and mixed together to form a new set of sonic interferents. This new reservoir of possible inscriptions, folds, erasures and overwriting are the principles of organization are contained the formal outlay of ‘three parts’ being mirrored as three triptychs. ~James DillonArticle from the Guardian: “A Guide to James Dillon”