Joseph Dillon Ford (b. 6 February 1952, Americus, Georgia, USA) was a musician, artist, and scholar of wide-ranging interests for whom the epithet "Renaissance man" was an entirely fitting description. In the course of his creative and professional life, he not only attracted notice as a composer of unusual stylistic breadth, originality, and maturity, but he also distinguished himself as a talented author, image-maker, and educator.
Joseph held undergraduate degrees in music, and graduate degrees in both musicology and landscape architecture. Although he focused on keyboard performance during his college years, programming such masterworks as Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903) and Mozart's Piano Concerto in C Minor (K. 491) at public concerts, he completed his training at Harvard as a Variell Scholar specializing in music history. There he studied twentieth-century composers and compositional techniques with Ivan Tcherepnin, the works of Bach and Handel with Christoph Wolff, Dowland and the English lutenists with John Ward, and the music of medieval Aquitaine with David Hughes.
Although it was his intention to pursue the life of a scholar, he took heed when Harvard's Office of Career Services began to warn the University's graduates of a widely recognized shortage of teaching positions "with no alleviation expected in the next decade or so." Although Joseph did find work as an adjunct professor at Miami-Dade College not long after receiving his graduate degree from Harvard in 1978, it became clear that this dearth of sustainable employment opportunities in higher education required him to make a decisive change in the course of his career. After spending a year abroad traveling in Europe and teaching English in north Africa, and already having exhibited some talent for drawing and painting, Joseph returned to university and earned a professional graduate degree in landscape architecture (1991). Once more attracted to the prospect of a permanent academic post, and eager to continue his cutting-edge research linking music and visual design, he accepted part-time and temporary full-time teaching and administrative positions at the Florida International University School of Architecture (formerly School of Design). In 1994, his literary, scholarly, and professional achievements were acknowledged by the Frederick B. Stresau Award and two additional Awards of Excellence accorded by the American Society of Landscape Architects. By 1997 he was able to retire and devote himself full-time to his creative work and a variety of closely related projects.
Continuously active as a composer and computer-assisted performer and lecturer even during his years in landscape architecture, it was only natural for Joseph to focus once more on music. This he did with unprecedented passion and intensity, producing in rapid succession over the next decade a series of major new works, including a symphony, a piano concerto, a harpsichord concerto, and an impressive variety of chamber and solo works for the piano, other instruments, and chorus. During the same period, he established himself as an art-music publisher through the creation of New Music Classics; expanded the frontiers of music as a literary and graphic art form through the invention of the Chromatic dialects; wrote numerous books and articles on music aesthetics and compositional techniques; initiated a number of international creative collaborations, including the world's largest sound sculpture and the first virtual new music festival; and founded the Delian Society, whose efforts to reinvigorate tonal music have attracted composers and performers on six continents in nearly thirty different countries and have drawn attention to the accomplishments of other outstanding artists through an ongoing annual awards program. His work has been performed in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Australia.
In 2006, Joseph established The Order of the Cynthian Palm to acknowledge the efforts of those members of the Delian Society who have made exceptional contributions to tonal art music through active support of and participation in the Society's various projects and activities. As the Founder and International Coordinator of the Delian Society, he serves as the Order's chief administrative officer. Joseph explains the core importance of the OCP:
Since the Delian Society is based on egalitarian principles, the Order of the Cynthian Palm is not intended to elevate the status of certain members above others. What is does do, however, is to distinguish those Delians who have demonstrated an exceptional level of commitment to the goals and objectives of the Society, which seeks to revitalize tonal music in the twenty-first century as a communicative art form after a long period during the past century in which the great tradition of tonality was widely neglected if not knowingly suppressed. This is an immensely important undertaking in which the cultural stakes have never been higher, as general music literacy and music education have entered a state of decline that can only be reversed through vigorous engagement on all fronts—cultural, social, economic, and institutional.
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