A Butterfly's Dream

Solo instrument with orchestra
12 min.
piano and orchestra
Date de création
Compulsory work for the Final session of the International Contest Queen Elisabeth of Belgium (Piano-2016).

The work is inspired by the ‘Butterfly’s Dream’scene in the Zhuangzi, a book of Chinese philosophy that takes its titlefrom the name of its author, Zhuang Zhou (Chuang-tse),who wrote in the 4th century BC. The book’s learned author wonderedabout the reality of the world, following a dream that he was unsure whether tointerpret as a dream or as reality:

‘One time, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a flutteringbutterfly, happy with his lot and unaware that he was Zhou himself. Suddenly,the poet awoke and realised that he was Zhou. With his mind between two worlds,he didn’t know whether he was Zhou dreaming that he was a butterfly, or thebutterfly dreaming that he was Zhou.’

The music, then, examines this thought, withwingbeats signalled by quivering strings – recalling an earlier composition, Frissons d’aile – with explicitreferences to Chinese music as well as a rhythm provided by a piano that is atonce tender and capricious. Far from being a mere competition piece, this workaims to focus on the roles of emotion and expressiveness in the music of ourtime.

The piece has a triple dedication: to the memory ofCount Jean-Pierre de Launoit, for his magnificent commitment to thiscompetition, which has been a regular part of my experience of music ever sincemy adolescence; to the memory of my friend Luc Brewaeys, whose death coincidedwith the composition of the last section of the work, which is marked by thattragedy; and, finally, to Zhang YongYin, recently the soloist in my Crossing Edges for erhu and orchestra,whose discussions with me led to the emergence of these butterflies, merrilyroaming across seas and continents.