Accompanying the exhibition, CAGE NAM JUNE: A Multimedia Friendship, at the opening night performance on October 5, 7pm, the renowned Cage interpreter, Margaret Leng Tan,  celebrate the Cage-Paik legacy with her toy piano/toy instrumental Hommage to John Cage/Nam June Paik







toy piano, toy instruments




HOMMAGE to NAM JUNE PAIK (2006)                         Margaret Leng Tan

 (first performance)


SUITE FOR TOY PIANO (1948)                                                     John Cage


4′ 33″ (1952)                                                                                 John Cage


from OLD McDONALD’S YELLOW SUBMARINE (2004)          Erik Griswold     


toy piano, bicycle bell and horn, train whistle


CHOOKS                                                                                    Erik Griswold

toy piano and wood blocks



Elegy for Nam June (2006)                                              Margaret Leng Tan

(first performance)


STAR-SPANGLED ETUDE #3 (“Furling Banner”) (1996)         Raphael Mostel

toy piano, siren, whistle, cap gun

Thursday, October 5th 2006


Margaret Leng Tan has established herself as a major force within the American avant-garde; a highly visible, talented and visionary pianist whose work sidesteps perceived artificial boundaries within the usual concert experience and creates a new level of communication with listeners. Embracing aspects of theater, choreography, performance and even “props” such as the teapot she “plays” in Alvin Lucier’s Nothing is Real,Tan has brought to the avant-garde, a measure of good old-fashioned showmanship tempered with a disciplinary rigor inherited from her mentor John Cage. This has won Tan acceptance far beyond the norm for performers of avant-garde music, as she is regularly featured at international festivals, records often for adventurous labels such as Mode and New Albion and has appeared on American public television, Lincoln Center and even at Carnegie Hall.   

Born in Singapore, Tan was the first woman to earn a doctorate from Juilliard, but youthful restlessness and a desire to explore the crosscurrents between Asian music and that of the West led her to Cage. This sparked an active collaboration between Cage and Tan that lasted from 1981 to his death, during which Tan gained recognition as one of the pre-eminent interpreters of Cage’s piano music, partly through her New Albion recordings, Daughters of the Lonesome Isleand The Perilous Night/Four Walls. After Cage’s death in 1992, she was chosen as the featured performer in a tribute to his memory at the 45th Venice Biennale.

Tan takes a lively interest in the musical potential of unconventional and unlikely instruments, and in 1997 her groundbreaking CD, The Art of the Toy Piano on Point Music/Universal Classics elevated the lowly toy piano to the status of a “real” instrument. Tan is certainly the world’s first, and so far, only professional toy piano virtuoso. Since then her curiosity has extended to other toy instruments as well, substantiating her credo “Poor tools require better skills” (Marcel Duchamp).

Tan favors music that confronts and defies the established boundaries of the piano and her toy instruments and has collaborated with like-minded composers to create works for her, such as Somei Satoh, Tan Dun, Michael Nyman, Julia Wolfe, Toby Twining and Ge Gan-ru; she is also a favorite of composer George Crumb. Tan’s authority on matters of Cage has evolved from that of an expert interpreter to responsible scholar protecting the textual integrity of his work; Tan edited the fourth volume of Cage’s piano music for C. F. Peters and in 2006 gave the premiere of his newly discovered 1944 work Chess Pieces, which she also edited for publication. Tan’s Mode DVD of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes includes a video in which she examines the original, 1940s era preparation materials for the work. Photogenic and comfortable with the camera, Tan is the subject of a feature documentary by filmmaker Evans Chan, Sorceress of the New Piano: The Artistry of Margaret Leng Tan,which receives its New York premiere at the Pioneer Two Boots Theater on September 23/24.


Categories: spotlight