The Kawai Toy Piano

takujiLast month, Rob and I visited Tokyo during our month-long trip to Asia. We were very lucky to meet Takuji Kawai, a Japanese pianist/toypianist/composer/improviser who arranged two concerts for us at the Flying Teapot. I was really excited about meeting another toy pianist. We decided to split both concerts with a 25-minute solo set from both of us, followed by improvisations on toy pianos. Takuji was inspired by the idea of having two toy pianists on the same concert, so he wrote a piece for two toy pianos entitled “Cromlech.” I was also thrilled when my toy pianist/composer friend David Smooke also agreed to write a brand-new two toy piano piece, “Toy With Me.”

Takuji told me that toy pianos are not so rare in Japanese pop music. I found it quite intriguing to perform for an audience that has some musical association with the toy piano. I was surprised to see his instrument; It is a two-and-a-half octave Kawai toy piano. The keys on his toy piano are slimmer and shorter than the Jaymar and Schoenhuts that I own. The sound of the instrument was quite different too– the rods inside the toy piano are hollow, so the sound is a bit warmer and less brittle. The instrument is also “in tune” so it displayed a celeste-like quality to it. It was the first time I performed on toy piano and felt like my instrument was the biggest one in the room!

The two concerts were a very memorable experience for us. I really loved Takuji’s solo toy piano pieces. I found his point of view to be beautifully introverted, lyrical, and quite conceptual. The live improvisations were extremely engaging for me on both nights, since I do not do this on a regular basis. My next two blog entries will be about this experience and also the new duo toy piano pieces written for the occasion.