Sorceress of the New Piano (image 1)

Screened as part of NZIFF 2005

Sorceress of the New Piano 2004

Directed by Evan Chan

Margaret Leng Tan, charismatic diva of the avant-garde piano provides a seriously enlightening crash course in her repertoire in this highly entertaining documentary portrait. “Mesmerising.” — Michael Nyman

Hong Kong / Singapore / USA In English
90 minutes Beta-SP

Director, Screenplay, Photography

Production co

Hong Kong Arts Centre/Riverdrive Productions Ltd

Music

John Cage
,
George Crumb
,
Henry Cowell
,
Philip Glass
,
The Beatles

With

Margaret Leng Tan
,
John Cage

Festivals

Vancouver 2004

Margaret Leng Tan, charismatic diva of the avant-garde piano, provides a seriously enlightening crash course in her repertoire in this highly entertaining documentary portrait. She strikes the keys with the full length of her forearm, leans into the Steinway to pluck the strings, or manipulates the bolts and pegs in a ‘prepared’ piano to the rigorous instructions of mentor John Cage, matching evangelical zeal with unerring musicianship. Singapore-born, now New York-based, she was a classical prodigy who converted early to the adventurous experimentation of composers Cowell, Cage and Crumb, the ‘three C’s’ whose work she illuminates so vividly in this film. — BG 

"Lucky enough to escape a stultifying upbringing in Singapore, the divine Margaret Leng Tan fetched up at Julliard in New York and went onto 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 the 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." — Tony Rayns, Time out Film Guide