Firefly was commissioned by the Texas Christian University Percussion Orchestra, Brian A. West, conductor. The work centers on the belief that the two species of fireflies in Japan – Genji-hotaru and Heike-hotaru – are the ghosts of fallen warriors from the terrible struggle between two clans in the 12th century. Once a year, on the night of the 20th day of the fourth month, the fireflies re-enact the great battle on the Uji River. On that night, all caged fireflies should be set free so they may take part.
The piece follows the arc of the story “Tale of the Heike,” which divides into three large sections, each centering on a different leader and their individual personality traits and leadership prowess. The opening passage from the tale introduces the Buddhist law of impermanence, especially as it relates to good fortune.