Margaret Leng Tan – Sorceress of the New Piano, The Artistry of Margaret Leng Tan
(Mode 194 DVD)
Sorceress of the New Piano (2004), 90 min., is a fascinating documentary by Evans Chan about new music specialist Margaret Leng Tan. Margaret is well known for her toy piano performances of music by John Cage and others, but also for pieces that use extended techniques such as prepared, plucked, bowed and/or strumming the piano. I always find it fascinating to see what all those mysterious and strange sounds are and how they are made. Not just an overview of Tan’s impressive work with the music of modern composers Cage, Henry Cowell, George Crumb, Jed Distler, Ge Gan-ru, Philip Glass, Guy Klucevsek, Stephen Montague, Somei Satoh, Tan Dun, Toby Twining, Lois V Vierk and others, but also a great introduction to modern “new” classical music. Cameo guest commentaries by various composers, critics and performers. Bonus film The Maverick Piano (2006), 50 min., features six full length performances of pieces by Cage (In a Landscape with Great Small Works, In the Name of the Holocaust, Music for Piano No. 2), Gan-Ru (Gu Yue “Pipa”), Erik Satie (Gymnopédie No. 3 with Great Small Works) and Toby Twining (Satie Blues with Great Small Works). I know there’s a lot of music documentary and live performance DVDs on the market, but there should be more like this one.
DVD review by David Beardsley.
Originally reviewed for the Downtown Music Gallery newsletter, November 2008.