New Music Friday

02020-04-03 | Uncategorized | 26 comments

It’s Friday and I want to post another work in progress. Today I will share a song that has been reincarnated several times. The first version was called This Spring Release 10,000 Butterflies and was an improvisation I recorded for the album One Guitar. This piece of music was inspired by a story I read years ago, and re-read many times, a story that can be found in Burton Watson’s translation of The Complete Works of Zhuangzi.

Zhuang Zhou, literally Master Zhuang, previously also rendered as Chuang Tzu, was a very important and influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE. He is credited with writing the Zhuangzi, one of the foundational texts of Taoism. If you read Laozi (Lao Tzu) and Zhuang Zhou (Chuang Tzu) you get a pretty good introduction to Taoism.

From the Wikipedia entry on the book:

The most famous of all Zhuangzi stories—”Zhuang Zhou Dreams of Being a Butterfly”—appears at the end of the second chapter, “On the Equality of Things”.

Once, Zhuang Zhou dreamed he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering about, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know that he was Zhuang Zhou.

Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuang Zhou. But he didn’t know if he was Zhuang Zhou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming that he was Zhuang Zhou. Between Zhuang Zhou and the butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.

— Zhuangzi, chapter 2 (Watson translation)

The well-known image of Zhuangzi wondering if he was a man who dreamed of being a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming of being a man is so striking that whole dramas have been written on its theme. In it Zhuangzi “[plays] with the theme of transformation”, illustrating that “the distinction between waking and dreaming is another false dichotomy. If [one] distinguishes them, how can [one] tell if [one] is now dreaming or awake?”

The second incarnation of the piece was a remix Jon Gagan made, called 10,000 Butterflies Redux. This version was never released on an album and was only available from our now defunct ListeningLounge. Here is what I wrote in 2008:

Jon’s re-working of “This Spring Release 10,000 Butterflies” is available in the LL now. I am using the term re-working instead of remix, because it’s really an entirely new recording based on the chord sequence of the original. I played new Flamenco and electric guitar parts and Jon played everything else. It’s a lovely long track – almost 10 minutes – which I have been listening to often since Jon sent it to me last week. You will find “10,000 Butterflies Redux” here. Perfect for sunsets or candlelight or daydreaming. Listen, repeat…

The third incarnation was a version I created for the album slow, released in 2016.

After performing a new version of this piece with the trio for the last three years, I decided that I really wanted to create a fourth version. Butterfly Dream 2020 is a working title and subject to change. At this point only Jon and I have laid down parts for this piece. The music will substantially change once Robby will add percussion, and perhaps his brother Char will add accordion.

There is a fifth incarnation, a solo recording of the piece for a video I made around 2008, using images I had created.

Here are links to four mp3 files and one video file you can download:
This Spring Release 10,000 Butterflies from the album One Guitar
10,000 Butterflies Redux – Jon’s version
Butterfly Dream – from the album slow
Butterfly Dream 2020 – work in progress
This Spring Release 10,000 Butterflies – video with live recording in my studio plus photos and moving images

Please note: these links will only be active today and through this weekend.


  1. Patricia Cornett

    It is always a pleasure reading your thoughts and especially enjoy knowing the background of the music you create and the evolution of songs.
    I’ve followed your concerts since 1992 in Southern California, the first being at The Coach House. Looking forward to your return to Annapolis, Maryland.

    • Sima Soti

      Hello Ottmar !
      Over the yrs I saw you 3 times in Concert
      2 times in Portland and over a yr ago in Seattle
      The music you Play is UNIQUE and. I consider you beside Armik,Jesse cook , And a few others flamengo musicians – one of most fine ARTIST !
      We are happy to have you !
      Stay only Safe!

      • Hossein Ghara

        I am sorry, did you say Armik?
        Not being fair to Ottmar.

  2. Steve Semken

    Thank you, ottmar—these are beautiful and so very appreciated right now.

  3. Sibylle

    Thank you for sharing the story and the music of 10,000 Butterflies, absolutely beautiful. The video is magic with the music and the images and colors.

  4. Chuck Betlach

    These recordings are great. “One Guitar” is my favorite album.

    Stay safe and hope to see you in concert soon.

  5. Delena Lombardo

    Heavenly, your music speaks a language I feel fluent in. Thank you

  6. Lourdes DeMello

    Loved them all, Ottmar, you and Jon make such great music, so beautiful and soothing for the soul and heart, thank you so much. I remember the days i went to watch you in Cambridge and you know? Your music was great and greater even after all these years, thank you.

  7. Manuel Correa

    Awesome Awesome Que viva

    Ottmar Liebert!!!!!!!!

    When Are you coming out to
    Long Island again. The performance
    In that place was insane.


    Your first version and the last, with just the guitar, they are both exquisite, magical. You don’t need anything more.

    The electronics in the two other versions is distracting even annoying, and the repetitive “clapping,” I found myself wondering how long it would go on.. Throughout, I kept listening for the guitar somewhere within the electronics.

  9. Dwayne Randle

    The original is incredible it’s got to be a love story!!!
    I have a video concept for the original song!!
    You are incredible, I have followed you for years then life got busy! I’m back now though!

  10. Colby

    Deep appreciation. Just what the soul needs during these times. Transported me home to Santa Fe from this far-away world.

  11. Boris

    Probably one of my all time favs. All versions, including Jon‘s, are superbe.

  12. Lynne Rouillard

    All are beautiful with the last, “…peace emanating as gentle wings of sound reverberating throughout the ether…”. Thank you, Ottmar & Jon. . . .

  13. wendy garrett

    I love the backstory, thank you for sharing. On your video, I am unsure of the word but transposition seems to fit. I had to look it up and – rather than music – chose: “a thing that has been produced by transposing something. “in China, the dragon is a transposition of the serpent”

    And [to me] the candles imply a shift in spiritual perception – no difference between beginning and ending. Fluid. Beautiful. ~ Be well.

  14. Boris Bartels

    What I find not mentioned enough is Jon’s unique bass playing in general. He has such a soft and meditative yet melodic style, and very complementary to Ottmar’s guitar. “Redux” is an amazing remix in which you can get lost in dreaming. “Garden at dusk” would also be on my desert island list of music, not only but also because of his bass whale at the end.

  15. Michael Praino

    Wonderful and such great timing to lift our spirits. I am intrigued to learn how your music evolves.

  16. Liz Ellis

    Thank you for sharing the story and all the versions of 10,000 Butterflies – I love all the variations on the theme! One Guitar is one of my favorite albums. Each song is a meditation in musical form. Very helpful in these times. Thank you to you and Jon for the wonderful music!

  17. Paul Barton

    I’ve been a fan for more than 20 years. My wife and I were honored to meet you once in Phoenix and again in Las Vegas. I love all of your music but if I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be 10,000 Butterflies. Thank yoiu for sharing beauty during this difficult time.

  18. Eric Nolan

    I love the revisions and the accordion in your last album worked really well so I look forward to what you have coming up next!

  19. Ali Shafai

    Thank you so much for this post and the newer versions of Butterflies. I loved the original version on One Guitar and then the re-visit on Slow. Looking forward to the 2020 version.

    Ali ❤️

  20. Ulrich

    Many thanks, Ottmar.
    Greetings from Berlin, Germany.

  21. Name *Odi Sea

    Once again, absolutely beautiful.
    Thank you very much

  22. DL

    Thank you for all the years of inspiring music. My wife and I have been fans for over 20 years and after several trips to Santa Fe area we understand why you are so inspired by the area. Looking forward to seeing you again at On-Stage in Annapolis or similar DC venue soon.

  23. JB Summerfield

    I remember seeing you back in the ’80s. You opened for Basia.

    I have find great comfort and joy listening to your music.

    I took my husband to see you in Agoura Hills, California a few years before he passed and he became a fan for the rest of his life.

    Stay safe, stay strong. Peace and joy.

  24. Denise Kuiper

    Hello! I only just found this when I was looking online for your inspiration for the butterfly songs. Wish I found this sooner. Today is 4/25/21, so definitely too late to access the links in your post since a year has passed.
    The versions I have heard, the original and the one from “Slow” are beautiful m. And while I had my own ideas of the interpretation of the notes and tempos of the songs, I did wonder what inspired you. Now I know. Thank you for this site, as well as your music (which I have enjoyed for decades!), and I look forward to perusing both.


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