of course, multi-hyphenate margaret zhang can also play classical piano

With her new short film and live performance, the wunderkind is out to champion classic music.

by Briony Wright
09 November 2017, 6:45am

Fashion photographer, filmmaker and Insta-star Margaret Zhang is set to premiere her new work, There’s No Space Left in C# Minor at the Australian Fashion Laureate awards tonight, and we're excited to see what she has in store. The performance will see Margaret play Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu in C# Minor Opus 66 live on stage, (which is absolutely as complex as it sounds) as the film screens. Yes, that's right, we need to add "accomplished classical pianist" to her already impressive CV. We asked Margaret to shed some more light on her latest passion project.

The teaser for your new short film looks wild Margaret. What's it about?
Glad you’re into it! On its face, the film is a sensory expression of my relationship with a piano piece that I've had quite a long-standing, raw emotional conversation with. I also really wanted to address a key frustration when it comes to the consumption of classical music by a modern, 21st century audience. I find that the super controlled and perfected representation of the medium can limit interest and interaction with the genre. I wanted to peel back some of those layers, so any viewer with any sort of musical taste could have some kind of unexpected visceral experience.

How did it come about?
This was very much a passion project, and certainly my first short film piece that hasn't been me directing something for a designer, or an editorial concept restricted by a brief.

We didn't know you were trained pianist until now. The piece at the centre of your film seems really complex, was it a challenging one to learn?
I won’t say it was easy to learn! I locked myself in various studios across New York, Sydney, China — wherever I was — for hours at a time to hash through it over a month or so. But we got there in the end, as you always do! I grew up playing very seriously, and it defines so much of my creative process, even as a stills photographer or writer. Sound is the first thing I engage with in any context.

As we understand it, the film has three parts, and each represents a different element of your relationship to Chopin's piece.
Yes, literally my experience of the piece from often frustrating and mistake-riddled rehearsal to musical abstraction. We start off in a high school music studio I studied in, learning and rehearsing a piece as rich and complex as Fantasia-Impromptu. Then something people are probably more accustomed to: a polished, vivid and dramatic performance. But even then, there are technical elements that take it in a very different direction to your usual single-track live performance footage. The last segment of the film then takes the experience one step further, looking to communicate what takes place in my head when hearing and playing the piece through remixed sound and fluid, but jarring, visuals.

Even with all your interests, it does seem as though filmmaking is a real focus. Do you see a future in it?
It’s definitely something I plan to hone my directorial skills with longer pieces like as this. At the moment, I’m also working on a documentary concept that I’m looking to shoot in the first part of next year in China.

Finally, the work will be touring afterwards, where will it show and how do you see this evolving?
The plan is to put together another exhibition installation concept to show in China early next year, as well as plans to take it to London and New York. The beautiful thing about it is that it will continue to evolve with the space and the audience in each city. Even for me, having stared at the same pixels from over a year, it’s an exhilarating moment to hear the sounds in different acoustics, and see my visuals in different aspect ratios —which changes things a lot more than you’d think — and hung in different mediums.

margaret zhang