All hail the arrival of Mistress of the Toy Piano
In the old, hallowed hall now called the Todd Wehr Conference Center, a small crowd gathers on a cold winter’s night to watch an unusual documentary. Present Music is previewing its January guest artist with a screening of Margaret Leng Tan, Sorceress of the New Piano.
Up on the screen, the talented and renown pianist is thrumming and plucking the insides of a grand piano. The noise is deep and haunting.
Before the end of film, Ms. Tan will be showcasing a new direction and sound in fine music. Sporting two toy pianos being played with separate hands, the noise is akin to a kinetic calliope that has somehow been programmed to play Beethoven.
The Singapore-born musician was the first to collect a Doctorate in the Musical Arts from Julliard, and devoured the classic masters. Then she started the next phase in her career with some well-placed nuts and bolts along with a decade-long friendship with the late music pioneer John Cage.
It was these avant-garde collaborations with the likes of John Adams, Erik Griswold, and George Crumb that gathered the most acclaim for a relatively quiet soul with an obsessive compulsive disorder which manifests itself through music and collecting musical artifacts.
Tan doesn’t want to merely get a piece perfect as composed for a plaything (like Cage’s 1948 piece “Suite for Toy Piano”), she wants to transcend its perceived coil and have it become something beautiful.
Present Music is in the middle of a big 2010-11 season with this mid-winter concert program, officially called TOYS! featuring Margaret Leng Tan. While the “best” section seats are listed as gone (likely the balcony area or dead front-center), $20 seats ($5 for students) are still available. While a background courtesy New Albion and Mode Records could only help, please watch this video for further convincing of the maestro at work.