flute and piano
composed in 1998
dedication: for Ariel (1986-1998)
commissioned by Mark Underwood
first performed by Mark Underwood and Justin Connolly, British Music Information Centre, London, 15 September 1998
recorded by Mark Underwood and Justin Connolly (private release)
This piece was written in memory of Ariel, a miniature spaniel of the type called 'papillon', or butterfly. Although he was not my own dog, I knew him well all his life, in which he gave great pleasure to all around him, with his exceptional grace and vitality, and his absolute fidelity to his human friends.
The butterfly is an ancient symbol of the soul; but despite equally ancient arguments as to whether or not an animal can be said to possess such an attribute, no one who knew Ariel could have doubted for a moment that he did.
The music plays for about ten minutes. Towards the end, a mock-Renaissance dance, as it were for pipe and tabor, reminds us of the liking of Spanish court painters for such dogs, who often figure in portraits of their owners. The dance is abruptly cut short by an ominous low note in the piano, and a moment of reflection follows before the piece ends in an increasingly wild cadenza-like passage for the flute, representing Ariel's favourite game. This involved tearing round in circles, over and under furniture, in and out of rooms; a demonic whirlwind of activity, punctuated by ferocious - but entirely simulated - attacks on the spectators of this performance.
Remembering the butterfly... celebrates a being as affectionate as he was lovable, and whose character, like his appearance, was unforgettably exotic and original. How many dogs enjoy, as he did, seeing the world from the vantage-point of the human shoulder?