Festival director Chi-hui Yang has a surprise at the 23rd San Francisco
Asian American Film Festival, March 10-20. The young but already
impressively accomplished Yang is a rock fan, and - besides presenting
filmed and live hip-hop, "sleazy rock," indiepop, and post-rock rock as
part of the festival - he is also showcasing Margaret Leng Tan.
On March 13, in the Castro Theater, the festival's "centerpiece presentation"
will be a film about Tan "playing her famous toy pianos." That sounds
charming and whimsical, but what a shock is in store for the audience
first seeing "Sorceress of the New Piano," and then listening to a live
concert by Tan, the subject of the documentary.
Yang (and festival programmer Taro Goto) advertise Tan's "experimentations
that culminated in her becoming the world's first professional toy pianist
(with a nod to Schroeder of `Peanuts' fame)," but that's just a portion
of the program. The real thing is Tan's passionate and fearless advocacy
and performance of works by some of the most challenging and wildly
experimental 20th century composers: Henry Cowell, George Crumb, and
John Cage. Not since Michael Tilson Thomas' San Francisco Symphony
Maverick series have they received such focussed attention here.
Film director Evans Chan traces the history of the Singapore-born New
York artist through interviews and performance excerpts, Tan tearing
into the bowels of prepared pianos, speaking dismissively of "all those
bleeding cuticles," recalling the time when she abandoned music in order
to train seeing-eye dogs... until meeting Cage, and joining him to push
the boundaries of "classical music."
For the festival Website, see http://www.naatanet.org; Tan's Website is at
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