Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep

Photo of Margaret Leng Tan

Margaret Leng Tan
Dunstan Playhouse

28 October 2022

There is no getting away from the fact that Leng Tan is a totally original performer. Anyone who witnessed her performances a Womad a few years ago will know this already. No one else in the world performs on both traditional pianos, toy pianos and even children’s toys. But then again, what else would you expect from an avant garde pianist who was closely associated with one of classical music’s foremost avant garde composers.

But this was much much more than a concert performance. At 76 years of age, Leng Tan provides on overview of her life with an emphasis on her association with John Cage.

In a multimedia performance Leng Tan themed the concert with counting, firstly her age then the stages in her life. Along the way she demonstrated her avant garde credentials on a grand piano, (prepared, of course), a toy piano, melodica, cymbal, toy mobile and finally a toy traditional phone. Added to this she cleverly utilized the modern art of looping to create complete works.

As stated, this was a multimedia concert. More than this is was also autobiographical, providing a history from her early years to the collaborations with John Cage, which were obviously so important to her. The striking visuals, working in complete harmony with the performance completed the immersive experience.

This was a performance about an artist on the fringes of classical music, one who challenges the concepts of what is music. Her very close association with Cage is clear evidence of this. It is also a show that lays bare her motivations and her long journey.

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