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On what do avante-garde avatar John Cage and indie-pop auteur Stephin Merritt agree? The charm of the toy piano, of course, and more specifically the toy piano stylings of Margaret Leng Tan, the woman the Village Voice described as “the world’s premiere string piano virtuoso.” Cage wrote perhaps the first “serious” music expressly composed for the instrument in 1948, the haunting “Suite for Toy Piano.” Merritt, whose best-known outlet is his band the Magnetic Fields but who also writes for Time Out New York, topped his ’97 10-best list for the magazine with Leng Tan’s The Art of the Toy Piano. Having mastered her first instrument, the “diva of the avant-garde’s” unconventional piano techniques and study of mentor Cage’s ouevre led her to tackle the ersatz ivories of Schroeder’s favorite ax. The result is the deservedly lauded Art’s playful mix of transcribed classics, from the Beatles to Erik Satie, with new music originals by Leng Tan’s composer cohorts. It may have taken the entire century-and-a-quarter since its invention by German immigrant Albert Schoenhut, but the little keyboard’s “magical overtones, hypnotic charm, and…off-key poignancy” have matured from novelty to innovation. Leng Tan performs at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in the Kennedy Center’s Grand Foyer. Free. (202) 467-4600. (Daniel Searing)