Fidan Aghayeva-Edler | Toy Piano

PRIMAL PATTERNS is a mini-series of concerts that take place as showcase concerts at different venues in Berlin. As part of the program, pianist Fidan Aghayeva-Edler will perform five older and three new works for Toy Piano composed explicitly for these concerts and one improvisation.

John Cage "Suite for Toy Piano" (1948)
Julia Wolfe "East Broadway" (1996)
Michael Finnissy "Sonata for Toy Piano" (2006-2007)
Dai Fujikura "Milliampere" (2010)
Fidan Aghayeva-Edler Live Improvisation
Dai Fujikura "Minas Song" (2013)
Margarete Huber "Number One" (2021) UA
Florence Anna Maunders "Primal Patterns" (2020) UA
Emily Pedersen "Caged Innocence" (2021) UA

The theme "Homeschooling/Parenting in the Lockdown" serves as a nexus for the works in the project. The performance dates will be evenly distributed throughout the spring, with performances in Weißensee, Charlottenburg, Prenzlauer Berg, and Wedding. The concert program will be streamed live at least once via Youtube and Facebook.

The Toy Piano is little known to the general public as a solo instrument. Also to change this, PRIMAL PATTERNS presents a Toy Piano repertoire that, in conjunction with reflection on the most current issues of lockdown (parenting, homeschooling, social restrictions) in the windows of small neighborhood stores (where you always are these days!), aims to slowly bring springtime frivolity and carefree cultural enjoyment back into life. There are only a few pianists in the world who can play a full-length solo concert on the Toy Piano. However, the Toy Piano is perfect for a lockdown storefront concert. It has a special individuality, is mobile and offers a great research space for composers.

Poster der Konzertreihe PRIMAL PATERNS - Die Termine


Originally intended as a toy, the Toy Piano became known as a professional solo instrument in 1948 through John Cage's "Suite". Many families still know the Toy Piano only as a toy or a kind of introduction to musical education.

During the lockdown, it gets much busier and louder in the household. The long-forgotten toy piano conquers the podium. It is played, strummed and banged.

Inspired by Erik Satie's minimalism, Cage turns back to tonality and melody in his "Suite for Toy Piano." "Suite" consists of five short movements, none of which lasts more than two minutes. Cage liked the rubbing sound and limited range of the instrument. The piece can be mechanically but also structurally immersive.

Is it actually playable? Is that why it's easy to play? Especially in the lockdown situation, where you're constantly overwhelmed ...

Julia Wolfe's "East Broadway" is written for Toy Piano and Toy Boombox. The boombox part is a bizarre feed that is coordinated with the toy piano part via a click track that the performer hears through headphones. So the performer has to play very strictly so that the techno music from the boombox stops exactly where the live Toy Piano starts.

It is chaos. There is talking, learning, singing, playing, trampling, fighting, working and practicing in one room at one time. It has to work somehow, but how much joy does just functioning bring?

"Sonata for Toy Piano" by British composer Michael Finnissy is a deceptive piece. "Allegro" here doesn't mean fast; "happy" is a term for minor chords, and one finds oneself in endless bleak repetitions that quite obscurely recall the famous "Groundhog Day." The finely crafted miniature "Milliampere" is actually a cadenza of Dai Fujikura's Toy Piano Concerto ("Ampere"), and in this context seems like a curious moment of stasis. It is also meant to sound in the spirit of 19th century improvised virtuosity - with exaggerated ritardandi and accelerandi, leading the listener directly to the pianist's own improvisation.

Is play a part of everyday life for everyone? Or only for children? When playing and interacting with your own child becomes a job, and when the actual job is turned into a juggling act, how much space is left for me? ... As a mother, I reflect on these questions in my improvisation, which I have dealt with intensively only since the lockdown began.

"Mina's Song" is another track by Japanese composer Dai Fujikura. He is intensely involved with his daughter's upbringing and posts her daily wisdom on social networks. This piece is based on a theme played by his then 2-year-old daughter on her toy piano. Toy Piano offers such space for both: for "children's experiments" and for "adult wisdom".

It takes some effort to produce a decent sound on the Toy Piano. But don't forget the essence! Quality is at this point of lockdown - a very conditionally viable concept.

In her piece "Number One", Margarete Huber playfully tackles the question of whether there are any "hits" at all in so-called "new music"? In addition, she might also want to get a little closer to the secret of the synth-pop classic "Popcorn" (composed by Gershon Kingsley in 1969), which has fascinated her since childhood.

The exact sequence of the storefront concert will be visually tangible for passers-by. Thus, they will recognize the rhythm of the so-called "Groundhog Day" entrusted in recent times.

"Primal Patterns" by Florence Anna Maunders is based on patterns from the prime sequence 19, 17, 13, 11, 7, 5, 3 in ascending and descending order, but in such a way that they interlock to form larger pattern repeats of 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17 & 19. The pianist's two hands together fill the entire harmonic spectrum. The cascading patterns of tones and rhythmic cycles interlock to completely fill the musical space with sound throughout the duration of the piece. The hands constantly overlap and the music is absolutely without pause, mirroring the situation many parents experience in Lockdown: trying to juggle "homeschooling" with "home office" and still make it in time to cook, eat, shop, etc. It seems that the interdependent patterns are completely relentless and beyond the control of the pianist or composer. The entire cycle of original patterns must be completed; only then can the music rest for a moment.

At the end of the concert, we arrive where we started. Isn't it also our greatest wish to return to the much talked about "normality" after the end of the lockdown?

Emily Pedersen writes about her piece "Caged Innocence": I researched John Cage's "Suite for Toy Piano" and found out that he wrote it with self-imposed restrictions because he thought "nothing great is good". I reflect in my piece on the fact that we can't have anything "great" on lockdown and that we are involuntarily limited in our choices. About the idea that something "good" is a small, pure, simple childlike state; that something "good" is inside, and that when our physical freedom is restricted, we reach for what we have created in our minds.

I look out of the window. Inside, I'm playing toy piano. Outside, life is going on. I hear voices, laughter, cars, birds.... A naive proverb flows fragrantly into the room, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."


Foto von Fidan Aghayeva-Edler (Pianistin)

Fidan Aghayeva-Edler is a pianist based in Berlin, Germany, currently focused on performance of contemporary music and improvisation.

She studied in Azerbaijan, Norway and Germany, and attended masterclasses with Marino Formenti, Eric Schneider, Leif Ove Andsnes, Jerome Löwenthal, Josep Colom und Peter Donohoe among others.

As a soloist and with an ensemble, she has performed in various venues across Europe, such as Berliner Philharmonie, Waldbühne Berlin, Steintor Varieté Halle, Grieghallen Bergen, Moscow Conservatory Rachmaninov's Hall. As a soloist she played with the Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra and the Bergen Philharmonic. As a solo pianist she became part of the “musica reanimata” concert series at Konzerthaus Berlin (2019), Impuls Festival (2014 and 2019), Aurora Festival Sweden (2017), ICPA Festival (2017), Händel Festival (2015), Festival “Verfemte Music” Schwerin (2014), International Festival Sobiraem Druzey, Moscow (2011), Borealis Festival (2010), Bergen Festspillene (2011) International Week of Conservatories, St. Petersburg (2007).

Her CD "Verbotene Klänge: Sechs Suiten" was broadcasted in the Bayerischen Rundfunk, RBB Kultur, Klassikcast of the Goethe Institute, MDR Figaro etc.

She is active in Berlin's contemporary music scene and works with composers such as Sarah Nemtsov, Chaya Czernowin, Marti Epstein, Aziza Sadikova, Margarete Huber, Naomi Pinnock, Jakob Diehl, Sebastian Elikowski-Winkler, Mayako Kubo, Olga Rayeva, Martyna Kosecka , Florence Anna Maunders, Dominik Susteck, Kristen Baum, Jeanne Artemis Strieder, Andreas Staffel, Inti Figgis-vizueta, Alex Paxton, Onur Dülger, Ben Gaunt and others.​

During the corona pandemic, she broadcasted daily live stream videos on Facebook and Youtube, where she played over 50 of the latest piano pieces (including 12 world premieres) and counting...

Apart from that, her focus lies on the rediscovery of music by persecuted composers. She tries to represent the music of male, female and non-binary composers equally in her concert programs. She is constantly discovering new musical spheres, such as improvised performances (solo or in an ensemble) with extended piano techniques, and realizing interdisciplinary projects (including poetry and dance).

She plays in film (including "Fabian" 2020 by Dominik Graf and "Nocturne" 2021 by Oliver Alaluukas).

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