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2011 Interviews : Joseph Dillon Ford

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Composer, Delian Society Founder Joseph Dillon Ford

By Molly Anderson-Childers

Joseph Dillon Ford I'm thrilled to interview composer Joseph Dillon Ford, founder of The Delian Society. This organization for musicians — the first of its kind — allows composers on six continents the opportunity to collaborate and connect with others who share their interest in tonal music. Joseph is here today to give us the skinny on this amazing organization, including details on how to join. Welcome to Creativity Portal, Joseph!

Q: What was your original impetus in creating The Delian Society?

A: The Delian Society was founded on the Web in January 2004 to provide an international vehicle for tonally oriented art musicians to connect and collaborate creatively with one another. It's the first organization of its kind, with members on six continents representing the breadth and diversity of contemporary tonal art music, from the very traditional to the adventurously emergent. Anyone with a serious, supportive interest in what we do can join, whether professional, student, or amateur, but s/he will need to set up a free Yahoo! Account first.

Q: Tell me about some of the composers you work with that inspire and challenge you to take your work to the next level.

David Warin SolomonsA: We Delians are an extremely diverse group and continuously share our musical ideas and discoveries with one another. The composers and performers who inspire us reflect that diversity. Some of our members work with artists and ensembles living in or near our own communities, such as British composer David Solomons, one of our founding members, who has had his work performed by Tubalaté, the Camerata Quartet, and the Fell Quartet. Check out this YouTube performance of David's infectiously delightful "Tants Fraylachs."

We Delians also are known for collaborating on large-scale multi-movement projects, such as the Variations concertantes sur le nom de Paul Verlaine, premiered in Seattle by bassoon soloist Franck Leblois (Conservatoire Gabriel Fauré, Angoulême, France) and the Octava Chamber Orchestra.

Edward GoldSome of our members can point to specific composers who have served as major influences. Edward Gold (New York City), a graduate of Yale, recalls being impressed early on by Chopin and Brahms, but also holds Schoenberg and Picker in some regard. Like Charles Ives, he has given us a particularly memorable musical evocation of Central Park in an electronic version that reveals his skill in the art of digital sequencing.

I studied musicology at Harvard, so I've assimilated as many historical influences as I possibly can from a wide spectrum of traditions and refuse to get straitjacketed by any "signature" style. One day I might compose something polyphonic that looks back to the Renaissance, such as my setting of a text evoking the Gate of Hell from Dante's Inferno, sung by the dwsChorale.

The next day, I may take a completely different direction, as I did through the use of starkly quintal harmonies, sibilant effects, and a text with Buddhist undertones by Florida poet Henry Stevens.

Q: Can you discuss the ways The Delian Society supports and collaborates with artists that work in other media?

Roman Turovsky-SavchukA: The Delians are very enthusiastic about multimedia projects, as the examples I've given demonstrate. We welcome talented artists interested in works that explore multiple sensory and cognitive modalities. Many Delians have placed their own musical videos on YouTube and other web sites, and some are professionally trained artists in other media such as painting, architecture, and literature. Roman Turovsky-Savchuk (New York City), whose musical style is deeply influenced by his Ukrainian heritage and the Baroque, is a gifted painter and lutenist who independently produced a darkly captivating vision of the modern urban landscape that concludes with a surprisingly tonal solo for vihuela da mano.

Some may have the mistaken impression that today's tonal composers are impeded by a "conservative" agenda, but it could just as easily be argued that the exclusion of tonality from new music is a tradition established in the past century with the potential to produce a stultifying level of artistic conformity. Besides, internal polling has consistently shown that Delians tend to be progressive to liberal in their politics and receptive to a wide range of stylistic possibilities, including the use of non-tonal resources. This is evident in our virtual festival, Nu Mu [sic!] Unlimited, which in 2009 featured scores for "classic" silent film excerpts.

Nancy Bloomer DeussenOur virtual festivals have always been closely allied with the visual arts, and our web pages reflect this inter-arts orientation. Last year, the theme for our Ye New Music Fayre was "Dialogues with the Muses," to which California composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen, known internationally for her poetically evocative musical landscapes, contributed the richly imaginative "Pegasus" Suite.

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Updated 1/10/14