friday feast: toying with words

This post is dedicated to Little Willow and Jules of 7-Imp, who asked that I play a song for them on my newly tuned piano.

“To me, the piano in itself is an orchestra.” ~ Cecil Taylor

Margaret Leng Tan, internationally acclaimed toy piano diva


Hello. I will now tickle the ivories.

I’m going to play the one where I try to feed a squirrel peanut butter from the edge of my finger and he eagerly nips at it but then he has trouble swallowing it and kippity coughs the tiniest little cough ever that I fear I have choked him to death but then he recovers whew! *Bowing*

Did you like it? I played lots of songs like that when I was little. I had good piano hands, they all said. I’ve grown up married to keyboards.

At my computer, I try to tap out doodle-ee-doo and dum da dum and zwee zwees tinkily plink all by theirselves. Cue in ripple-n-run, buds blooming out melodies and sync syncopation suave and smooth.

What a life, to play stories.

Where’s the music? Listen to the spaces between the notes and words I caress and cajole out of my keyboard, blacks and whites. See the pictures. Feel the feels.

Poetry is music.

Music is poetry.

A keyboard is a keyboard. Play those notes, man, and create what you will. Play loud.


by Tony Hoagland

Play the one about the family of ducks
where the ducks go down to the river
and one of them thinks the water will be cold
but then they jump in anyway
and like it and splash around.

No, I must play the one
about the nervous man from Palestine in row 14
with a brown bag in his lap
in which a gun is hidden in a sandwich.

Play the one about the handsome man and woman
standing on the steps of her apartment
and how the darkness and her perfume and the beating of their hearts
conjoin to make them feel
like leaping from the edge of chance —

(Rest is here.)

Variations on many poetic themes can be found today at Becky’s Book Reviews.

CODA: Margaret Leng Tan turns toys into art, with a nod to the Beatles.


“Concerto for Toy Piano,” played by Keith Kirchoff, is here, if you like your stories highbrow.


24 thoughts on “friday feast: toying with words

  1. TadMack says: 🙂
    Wow. I’m impressed… concert pianist. Mini piano…
    What an unique poem. I wish I could play more stories… will have to practice those twenty minutes per day…!


  2. Yay for newly tuned pianos! I hope you play and play, for serious and for fun and to all the squirrels who gather. 🙂
    I’m trying to fathom the hours that went into that toys into art video. I can’t. But she’s definitely “leaping from the edge of chance” there, isn’t she?


  3. I love that you play notes, words and spaces! Do you find you go on a piano-playing binge when it’s first tuned? I wonder if there’s an equivalent to tuning with the computer keyboard…
    Can’t get the speaker on my computer to work, so I’ll be back later to watch the toy piano concert.


  4. I don’t think there is an equivalent to a newly tuned computer keyboard, unless you count eating dark chocolate in copious amounts before playing. 🙂
    I play a little more when it’s first tuned, but wouldn’t consider it a binge. I definitely need more practice!


  5. You’re such a poet, such a spinner…
    …of tales and fantasy, such a creator of imagery…of me and you and Paul and Bob and Elvis’ Teddy Bear drinking Tea with the Mad Hatter and Alice…
    …that sometimes I don’t know which pill makes me smaller and which makes the stories tall?
    Do you play the piano?


  6. Have a Lucky “8” Day!
    According to Chinese culture, the number *8* is considered lucky. The date today is 08-08-08…so have a TRIPLE LUCKY DAY!


  7. Re: You’re such a poet, such a spinner…
    Tall stories from a short person.
    I love my piano but don’t play it nearly enough. I took lessons for about 8 years, classical music. This has totally ruined my ability to play jazz or anything requiring improvisation. Boogie woogie is fun, though.


  8. FYI on lucky “8”
    Just a little FYI
    Why Is The Number 8 Considered Lucky In China?
    By: Water Tiger
    December 13, 2007
    For Chinese the number 8 is considered lucky just like the number 7 is considered lucky in the West. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Olympic games in China start on August 8, 2008 or 08/08/08. In China you have to pay extra to have the number 8 in your phone number or license plate. In addition, home and business owners like to have the number 8 in their address.
    So, why is the number 8 considered lucky in the minds of Chinese people. The main reason has to do with the pronunciation of the word for the number 8 in China. It is pronounced “ba” and sounds like the word for prosperity which is pronounced “fa”. Another reason why the number 8 could be considered lucky is because it is a perfect symmetrical shape. You can cut the number 8 in half vertically or horizontally, and both halves mirror themselves perfectly. Perfect symmetry lends itself to perfect balance. In Chinese Astrology, perfect balance is considered the ideal.
    On the date 08/08/08 there is predicted to be a record number of weddings, even surpassing the number of weddings on 07/07/07. According to Chinese Astrology, the date 08/08/08 is in the year of the Rat, the month of the Monkey and the day of the Dragon. It just so happens that the Rat, Monkey and Dragon are in the same affinity group or trine. That means the three Chinese Zodiac animal signs are perfectly compatible with each other. Therefore, the date 08/08/08 will be especially lucky for Rats, Monkeys and Dragons.


  9. Okay, what a busy — and crappy, to be blunt — day I’ve had, but then I come here tonight to see this loveliness, all co-dedicated to me. Thanks! You just made my day good.
    Jules, 7-Imp


  10. That is beyond amazing. I am going to have to show this to my little boys, who love to play toy piano, bicycle bells and toy whistles. The poem is lovely too.


  11. I always thought toy pianos were just “toys.” Never realized there are pieces of music specifically composed for the instrument. And I liked the poem because it made me think in terms of creativity being, above all, a child-like endeavor — with its freedom, spontaneity, and joy.


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