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chrysalis: in memoriam Olivier Messiaen (2015)

duration ca. 11:10

available from the composer


for 11 winds

flute, alto flute

oboe, english horn

2 Bb clarinets, bass clarinet/Bb clarinet, contrabass clarinet/Bb clarinet

2 bassoons, contrabassoon

Program Note

I first heard the Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time) by French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992, in my late teens, as I was beginning my education as a composer. The music was so moving, so powerful and mystical, and seemed such a clear and true picture of something beyond this reality that I was immediately transfixed. The story of the quartet—Messiaen composed it when he was interned at a German prison camp during World War II—made it even more profound. I began to study his music and his writings-- Technique de mon langage musical (The Technique of My Musical Language)—and discovered a profound affinity; our mutual love of birdsong, of extended harmony, of rhythmic vitality and even of palindrome. While I did not use Messiaen’s techniques directly, they showed me potentials that I had not previously conceived.

A chrysalis is the hard shell surrounding a pupa formed as a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. I imagine Messiaen’s human body, encased in earth, gradually metamorphosing into pure, luminous, transcendent spirit.

chrysalis was commissioned by the Hong Kong Composers' Guild and premiered by the Hong Kong Wind Kamerata May 5, 2015, at the Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall.

Technical note

The piece was composed for the Hong Kong Wind Kamerata, an ensemble that does not use a conductor.  The meter changes frequently, but every part has an extensive cue line throughout so no conductor is necessary.

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