Sorceress of the New Piano

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Lucky enough to escape a stultifying upbringing in Singapore, the divine Margaret Leng Tan fetched up at Juilliard in New York and went on to become not only the foremost performer of John Cage's piano music, but a prime supporter/interpreter of modern keyboard music in general - and the only person to explore the musical and sonic potential of the toy piano. Evans Chan's exemplary documentary is first and foremost a portrait of the woman, seen talking with remarkable candour and performing with even more remarkable aplomb, but it also encompasses an astute mini-history of avant-garde music in the 20th century complete with footage of Merce Cunningham choreography and visual work by Jasper Johns and Marcel Duchamp. As no-nonsense as its subject, the film does a terrific job demystifying 'experimental' music; the pieces performed here (including works by Cage for prepared piano and George Crumb's Makrokosmos) have more immediacy and impact than most stadium rock.

By: TR

Release details

Duration: 91 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Evans Chan
Screenwriter: Evans Chan
Cast: Margaret Leng Tan
Edward Rothstein
Mark Swed
Joshua Kosman