Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep

Music, text, performance and image

Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep is based on the life and work of renowned pianist Margaret Leng Tan, a leading figure in experimental music. Born in Singapore, Tan was the first woman to earn a doctorate from Juilliard, but a desire to explore the crosscurrents between Asian music and that of the West led her to John Cage. This sparked an active collaboration between Cage and Tan that lasted from 1981 to his death, during which Tan gained recognition as one of the pre-eminent interpreters of his music. Margaret Leng Tan is a phenomenal performer who at the age of seventy-two appears to be at the height of her powers and shows no sign of slowing down.

Drawing from her personal and professional history, Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep fuses music, text, performance and image to create a portrait of this singular artist, the forces that drive her, and the ways in which music has been both her passion and her refuge. Margaret is joined by composer and long-time collaborator Erik Griswold, together with director Tamara Saulwick and dramaturge Heng Luen Kok in the creation of this entirely new work.

Till this day I count the number of steps when climbing a flight of stairs or the number of times I rinse after brushing my teeth. These counting rituals permeating my daily life serve no particular purpose other than to satisfy the need to perform them. That is the nature of O.C.D. Enter music and rhythm: you can imagine how delighted I was to be actually required to count the beats in a piece of music. I could now count to my heart’s content …

‘Music of the Unquiet Mind’ by M. Leng Tan (New York Times)

This project is a co-production with Culturelink Singapore

Supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Communication and the Arts through the Cultural Diplomacy Arts Fund