I dreamt that I died and came back as a moth trapped in a practice room piano

Gordon Delap

  • Year of composition: 2017
  • Duration: 9:26
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium


This was built using rejected source sounds and abandoned ideas for a composition for live piano and electroacoustic sounds. The materials were used instead in I Dreamt that I Died and Came Back as a Moth Trapped in a Practice Room Piano. The composition, in part, is a reflection on infinite recurrence and the fragility of life. Also, it’s hard to feel much warmth towards the piano. I suppose it’s possible to respect it without ever quite liking it. It’s an authoritarian old thing, monstrous in size and shape, kitted out like a torture instrument with a Cheshire Cat’s grin, fixed, rigid, with an ungainly way of smashing through material and breaking up lines, it conjures ideas of repetitive strains and torn tendons, of non-musicians’ reports of how childhood lessons on the instrument put them off musical training for life. The piano is, then, a great destroyer, as well as a great creator. The title alludes to the famous butterfly passage from Zhuangzi’s writings, which (in one translation) goes like this: “One night, Zhuangzi dreamed of being a butterfly — a happy butterfly, showing off and doing things as he pleased, unaware of being Zhuangzi. Suddenly he awoke, drowsily, Zhuangzi again. And he could not tell whether it was Zhuangzi who had dreamt the butterfly or the butterfly dreaming Zhuangzi. But there must be some difference between them! This is called ‘the transformation of things’.”

[Source: MR 2018]