Duration: 7 min.
The Legend of the Golden Snail is a programmatic work loosely based on a traditional Indonesian folk legend, Keong Emas (the Golden Snail). The work is divided into six short continuous episodes with each episode representing an event related to the legend.
The main character of the legend is a princess (Episode No. 1: Princess Dewi Limaran). The princess encounters a witch who curses her, turning the princess into a golden snail (Episode No. 2: The Curse of the Old Witch). The golden snail is found by a widow, who takes it home with her and treasures it (Episode No. 3: The Finding). Wondrous and unexpected things start to happen in the widow’s life – the golden snail secretly does good deeds for her (Episode No. 4: The Golden Snail). Eventually the widow realises that the golden snail is really the princess and she finds a way to break the curse (Episode No. 5: Breaking the Curse). Three hundred years later, the princess marries a prince. At her wish, the melodies from heaven (Episode No. 6: The Heavenly Gamelan, based on a Javanese children’s song) are brought down to earth at the wedding to ensure she will live happily ever after.
The tonality and the setup of the piece can be loosely related to Gamelan music (traditional ensemble music of Java and Bali in Indonesia). Six porcelain bowls are individually chosen to form a pentatonic scale, which is one of the scales commonly used in Gamelan music. The tuning of bowls is slightly “off”, imitating the slendro or pelog2 tuning systems rather than the system of equal temperament used in western music. The various combinations of pitched and unpitched instruments (bowls and cymbals respectively) with mallets, rattan, fingers and fingernails create colour and contrast within the work.
The Legend of the Golden Snail was commissioned in 2010 for the event ‘ASYIK: an evening of new works by Indonesian-Australian artists’ in Sydney, Australia. The world premiere performance was given by the composer on 28 August 2010 in the Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, as part of the Gala Concert of the 2010 Australian Percussion Gathering.