Premiered in Dudley Recital Hall on November 7, 2022, by Donald Rabin (flute); Harold Gomez Montoya (clarinets); Shupeng Wang (piano); Yoonsung Kim (violin); Samuel Linzan (cello); conducted by the composer.
The phrase “butterflies in December” demands no specific interpretation– in fact, several come to mind. On the one hand, the phrase may appropriately conjure the image of a preponderance of fluttering Monarchs on their winter coastal migration route, delicate wings of blazing orange and bold black jumping out against a winter day’s somber hues of gray and white and fighting its icy gusts. On the other hand, the poem above presents an alternative interpretation to which the titular phrase in question lends itself. To “have butterflies” in one’s stomach suggests either: one has literally eaten butterflies, which our narrator denies having done yet; or one has fallen victim to a frenetic anxiety, whose cause in the case of our narrator is imminent starvation. Starved for nourishment or for something else, we know not, but there remains starvation all the same, as there remain the butterflies. Butterflies in December attempts to present both interpretations of its title; therein, it acts simultaneously as a portrait of those wandering butterflies enduring cold winds, and as a portrait of a starving individual who must as well endure the cold winds of December– which, perhaps, batter said individual all year long. Inasmuch as those cold winds do blow, however, they also sit still; and it is the withdrawn stillness with which Butterflies in December concludes that represents that great cold from which warmth cannot save.