New York — Margaret Leng Tan, one of Asia's leading pianists, came to the United States from Singapore to study music. She became the first woman to graduate with a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the Juilliard School in New York.
Miss Tan has made New York her home base, while presenting concerts around the world of works of new music by American and Asian composers, from John Cage to Somei Satoh.
She is also well known for her work with prepared piano (when objects such as pins or forks are attached to the strings or hammers to produce different sounds), though she used a regular instrument at the Asia Society concert.
In a Monitor interview, Tan talked about her music:
``My approach to the piano is very choreographic. The whole idea of pianistic choreography fascinates me. To work inside the piano you have to be extremely well coordinated because there's no time to fumble.
``A Cambodian composer once remarked that the way I move at the piano is like tai chi. It's a very controlled, gestural approach to the instrument, and it's all dictated by the demands of the music. There is a whole world of sound to be explored from the innards of the piano.
``Coming from Singapore, which is a very cosmopolitan society where Chinese, Indian, and Malay people make up the population, I heard quite a bit of Asian music. I used my Western classical training as a springboard to go off into my own tangential explorations.''
Tan's goal is to present music that incorporates both Western and Asian aesthetics.
``My role as a musician is first to entertain, second to educate, and third to persuade.
``I can do the first two [alone], but the third only if people will allow themselves to be persuaded.''