09/05/2014 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Geisel Library, Seuss Room
A family friendly free show! Come early, or else you’ll end up sitting on the floor (the toy piano performers have to sit on the floor, though, so you’ll be in good company!) Hope to see you at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, September 5, 2014 for our Fourteenth Annual Toy Piano Festival!
Serious music for toy piano?
The first composer to write a “serious” piece for toy piano was American composer John Cage. His Suite for Toy Piano, written in 1948, uses nine consecutive white notes of a piano keyboard. This is significant because some toy pianos only have white notes (the black notes are sometimes merely painted on as a reference point so that players will know where “C” and all the other notes are.) Composer George Crumb used toy piano to great effect in his chamber music piece Ancient Voices of Children (1970). The score of this piece even shows a diagram of where to place the toy piano on stage.
Here at the UC San Diego Library, toy pianos are celebrated with great fanfare in the month of September, with special attention on composer John Cage’s September 5 birth date. It is then that we host our annual toy piano festival. In preparation for that festival, composers visit the Library and pick a specific toy piano from the collection, and a piece is written specially for that instrument. Some toy pianos only have nine notes, some three octaves—so each piece has its own special charm and special limitations.
The Toy Piano Collection at Geisel Library consists of actual instruments, recordings, extant literature and commissioned scores. In 2001, because of the Toy Piano Collection’s activities, the Library of Congress issued a special call number and subject heading for Toy Piano Scores: M 175 T69
UC San Diego has a history with toy pianos that predates the Library’s annual toy piano festival. Composer Robert Erickson, a founder of UC San Diego’s Music Department wrote a piece for toy pianos and bells that was premiered on California’s PBS television stations in 1966.
Featured at the 2014 festival: new works from local composers, a work from John Cage and songs from The Cat in the Hat Songbook.
Performers and composers this year include: Sue Palmer (the Queen of Boogie Woogie!) Ryoko Amadee Goguen, Christian Hertzog, Kenneth Herman, Gail Gipson, Ellen Lawson, James Chute, Samara Rice, Alex Segal and Scott Paulson.