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Of Butterflies and Jaguars (2012)

for alto saxophone and orchestra
Duration:  18 minutes
Program Notes
No two creatures on Earth could be more dissimilar. The butterfly is a quiet, beautiful, gentle insect that goes about its way, extracting nectar from flowers, hurting no one and nothing, except (in its previous form ) a few leaves. The jaguar, a magnificently beautiful cat, is the top predator in its environment, surviving by killing and eating animals less powerful than itself. Yet the priceless and continued life of each is threatened by yet another species: the human.
Of Butterflies and Jaguars merely paints pictures of these two wonderful animals in the hope that we humans will mend our ways and nurture all non-human creatures on our planet as well as the environments in which they live, so that we are not, in the end, the only ones left standing.
The first movement depicts the lifecycle of the butterfly. Beginning with the egg, we experience caterpillar, pupae and butterfly stages and then as the cycle of life continues, the egg stage again. The egg stage depicts the warmth of the days as well as the happiness of the creature about to be born. From time to time a minor chord appears, signalling that survival is far from assured.
In the caterpillar stage, its legs are depicted by the pizzicato strings. The saxophone depicts the head of the caterpillar which, from time to time (perhaps too many times for gardeners!) reaches out, grabs something to eat and munches
The pupae stage is quiet and ethereal, where the caterpillar mutates to a butterfly. Midway through the movement the strings begin to tremble, representing the caterpillar's becoming a butterfly, vibrating with life.
The trembling (tremolo) of the strings continues in the last movement, adding the sense of gusts of wind to the sense of vibrations of life. The soaring butterfly is represented by the saxophone.
The butterfly dies at the end, but the movement is not over. It ends as it began, because the species still lives. Whereas "Butterflies" is about the entire life of a member of a species, the second movement, "Jaguars" portrays a very small period of time in the animal's life. At first, the jaguar runs. Then, it slows down almost to a stop as it stalks its prey, making no noise, moving slowly and imperceptibly. Next, it pounces on its prey, fighting with it and quickly subduing it. Finally, the cat eats its prize and after a brief respite, dashes away.
Of Butterflies and Jaguars was commissioned by Gary Scudder, band director at Stockdale Christian School in Bakersifled, CA, as a gift for his saxophone student, David Stevens, upon David's graduation from high school.
To request a quote for Of Butterflies and Jaguars, please contact the composer here.

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