Chi-Lin, the Chinese unicorn, also known as the “dragon horse,” is one of the four spiritual creatures in Chinese mythology… It combines the body of the musk deer with the tail of an ox, the forehead of a wolf, and the hooves of a horse. Eighteen feet high and covered with scales like a fish, its skin is five-coloredred, blue, white, black, with a yellow underbelly… a monstrous appearance, although it symbolizes benevolence and rectitude. The male is called Chi (represented by the string orchestra), and the female Lin (represented by the flute). Except for the single horn that protrudes from the forehead of the male unicorn, the appearance of the two genders is identical. It is said that Chinese unicorns last appeared in the halcyon days of the Emperor Yao (the famous legendary Emperor of China’s Golden Age in the third millennium, BC), but mankind became so degenerate that they have never shown themselves again.
The second movement, Flute Moon, is based on the melody of an art song "Evanescent Fragrances" by the literati poet and flutist-composer Jiang Kui (1155-1235?) of the Sung Dynasty. Jiang Kui lived in a period when half of China, north of the Yangtze River, was occupied by foreign invadersfirst the ancestors of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty; later by the Mongols, who took over all of China and founded the Yuan Dynasty. I was particularly attracted by the poet’s subtle metaphorical expressions. In this poem the poet reminisces about, and laments, China’s prosperity before the invasions as witnessed by "Moonlight, my old friend."
This work is dedicated to Christoph Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony Orchestra.