Contes pour enfants pas sages

2007

The Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen visited Victoria in 1993. Shortly after we met, we discovered we both had small children, and soon found ourselves talking about the need for "a new Babar". He told me about Contes pour enfants pas sages (Stories for naughty children) by French screenwriter and poet Jacques Prévert. Although I immediately ordered a copy, it’s taken this long to actually set them: there is nothing more daunting than setting children’s stories to music.

Prévert wrote Contes… in 1947. It comprises 8 episodes, each one featuring a different animal as the central character. I have set six of them. They can be played in any order. These are not moral tales; rather they set out to tell the reader that the world is an unpredictable place, and that, regardless of one’s best intentions (and often because of them), anything can happen (usually bad).

I am grateful to the Camargo Foundation of Cassis, France, for giving me time and space to complete Contes pour enfants pas sages, and to the Canada Council for getting me there.

Continuum performed the World Premiere of Contes pour enfants pas sages on October 26, 2007.


Christopher Butterfield CA

Christopher Butterfield lives in Victoria BC, where he teaches in the School of Music and the Department of Visual Arts. Recent activities include singing Socrate, by Erik Satie; mentoring the Arraymusic Young Composers Workshop; judging the Gaudeamus International Composers Award and mentoring the Young Composers Meeting ‘de Ereprijs’, both in the Netherlands. Future activities include organizing a festival for John Cage’s 100th birthday with the Victoria Symphony, Open Space and UVic, and curating an exhibition about his life at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; translating Théatre by Paris Dada Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes; composing new works for Aventa Ensemble and Arraymusic, and trying to stay devoted to long-term projects.

Christopher Butterfield