Margaret Leng Tan is probably the only woman to make a living from playing the toy piano – a miniature version of the ‘real’ piano – and receives accolades and high volumes of album sales.
She’s also the first woman to graduate from New York’s elite Juilliard Music School in classical piano, so her change in choice of instrument may seem a little strange.
She draws much of her inspiration from the musician John Cage; both have a fascination in altering the sounds made in ordinary pianos by placing foreign objects in and between the strings.
“The prepared piano was an invention of John Cage’s where he inserted various objects between the strings of grand pianos like bolts, screws, pieces of rubber, bamboo, felt. The objects functioned as mutes which completely transformed the sound characteristics of the piano. It gave the piano a completely different (sound) range, a whole wealth of sonic possibilities came about by inserting the objects between the strings,” she says. “The whole point of it was to create a percussion orchestra under a single player and he really did succeed.”
Her concerts feature a choreography of piano manipulation and playing, and now the toy piano:
She travels with her two “best” toy pianos, an upright and a custom-made toy grand, when she does overseas concert dates.
Her enthusiasm for them is plain and she credits her toy piano playing with helping her improve her “big” piano skills.
“I have really finely honed my skills and when I play the adult piano it is an unexpected bonus that my control is so finely honed, I can do anything. I still feel I haven’t reached the limits because there are no limits, there are no rules, the sky is the limit, the only limit is your imagination and how daring you are willing to be.”
“I’m very privileged to be able to make a living by that which obsesses me,” says the toy piano player.
Read the full article: The non-conventional pianist