Eel Bone is closely based on "Tulang Lindung," a movement from the overture to the Balinese wayang kulit shadowplay, as performed by a gender wayang quartet. An older version of this piece - the version from Kuta village as taught by I Wayan Lotring - was faithfully transcribed for two pianos by Colin McPhee as part of his Balinese Ceremonial Music. Eel Bone is based on the considerably different modern version from Sukawati village as taught to me by I Wayan Loceng in 1988, and my "translation" is far from literal.
Eel Bone was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet and premiered by them at the Artaud Theatre, San Francisco, in May 1996. Minor revisions were made in August 1998.
1) From letter A to letter E in violin 1, and at letter D in violin 2, violins arco on the beat with left-handed open-string pizzicati on the offbeat. As the score indicates, during these sections arco notes are shown with downward stems, pizzicati with upward stems. Should this technique prove too cumbersome or tiring, violin 1 can use this technique at letter A, switching to col legno for the entire passage from B to E. In this case violin 2 should also play col legno at letter D.
2) Many of the principal melodies are composite - produced by the interlocking between various parts. There is often no single melodic line - it's being passed back and forth between instruments. Because of this, full note lengths and strict adherence to articulations are absolutely essential. Except where specifically indicated by a staccato mark (or a simile), all notes are full value. This includes accented notes. However, all cello pizzicati should be dry and non-vibrato, no matter what the indicated note length.