Mysterious Butterflies

From Wind Repertory Project
Ryan Lindveit

Ryan Lindveit

General Info

Year: 2017 / 2018
Duration: c. 11:30
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Chamber orchestra and voices
Publisher: Ryan Lindveit
Cost: Score and Parts (print) – Rental ($240.00)   |   Score Only (print) - $60.00


Full Score
C Piccolo I-II
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II (II doubling English Horn)
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion I-VII, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bongos
  • Chimes
  • China Cymbals
  • Crotales
  • Glockenspiel
  • Hi-Hat
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Splash Cymbal
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Vibra-slap
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Santiago Ramón y Cajal was a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who is often called the father of modern neuroscience. Among other things, Cajal discovered the neuron and also made meticulous pencil drawings of many of the nerve cells he saw under his microscope -- bridging the gap between art and science. He wrote beautifully about his discoveries and was aware that neuroscience held the secrets to unlocking the mysteries of the human psyche.

I have been wanting to write a piece related to neuroscience for a long time, and Cajal’s imagery-rich words spoke to me immediately. He calls brain cells “the mysterious butterflies of the soul,” and wonders if their “flapping wings” will someday provide us with the secrets of the human mind. Ultimately, Mysterious Butterflies is a manifestation of my belief that one of music’s greatest powers is to provide a space for listeners to explore mysterious mental terrain.

The text has been translated and adapted from Recuerdos de mi Vida (Recollections of my Life) by Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1923).

Who knows the secret of mental life?

Like the entomologist hunting
For brightly colored butterflies
My attention hunted
In the garden of gray matter
For cells of delicate and elegant forms:

The mysterious butterflies of the soul
Whose flapping wings may
Someday—who knows?—
Clarify the secret
Of mental life.

- Program Note from score

Mysterious Butterflies, commissioned by the Big 12 Band Directors Association, takes its title from Recollections of My Life by Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852-1934), a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who is widely considered the founder of neuroscience. Recalling the joy and exhilaration he felt while discovering brain cells under his microscope, Cajal wrote: “Like the entomologist hunting for brightly colored butterflies, my attention hunted in the flower garden of grey matter for cells of delicate and elegant forms: the mysterious butterflies of the soul, whose flapping wings may someday -- who knows? -- clarify the secret of mental life.”

Composer Ryan Lindveit states the following:

When I first read this text, I immediately knew I wanted to set it for singers, which I did -- for small choir with chamber ensemble -- in the winter of 2017-18. I also loved the idea of using the same musical material in a purely instrumental piece for band by taking Cajal’s imagery and emotion and translating them into instrumental color and expression. Ultimately, I was deeply inspired by the idea that the human quest for understanding the mysteries of life can -- even should -- be beautiful and elegant, like a flower garden filled with butterflies.

- Program Note from Baylor University Symphonic Band concert program, 25 November 2019


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Penn State University (University Park) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Tonya Mitchell-Spradlin, conductor) - 2 Mrch 2023
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Mallory Thompson, conductor) - 21 October 2022
  • Baylor University (Waco, Texas) Symphonic Band (Isaiah Odajima, conductor) – 25 November 2019
  • University of Texas (Austin) Wind Symphony (Cheldon Williams, conductor) – 5 April 2019 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer