Hero Photo - photo by Ruben Zahra.JPG
Out of the Cage

“Out of the Cage” is a cycle of 7 creative videos featuring the collaboration between pianist Tricia Dawn Williams and composer / video artist Ruben Zahra. All these videos (with the exception of “Pounding”) were produced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The video production and music arrangement for “Tierkreis” and “Parade” are both premiered as part of Three Palaces Festival 2020.


WATCH CHIMES by Ennio Morricone

Pianist – Tricia Dawn Williams; Video production – Ruben Zahra


POUNDING by Ruben Zahra

Pianist – Tricia Dawn Williams; Video production – Ruben Zahra; Model – Emma Hickey; Makeup – Jackie Grima; Audio recording and mixing - Manolito Galea (LITO’s Place)



Pianist – Tricia Dawn Williams; Video production – Ruben Zahra


WORMS CRAWL IN by Ruben Zahra

Pianist – Tricia Dawn Williams; Video production – Ruben Zahra


PARADE by Erik Satie

Pianist – Tricia Dawn Williams; Video production – Ruben Zahra; Choreography & Dancers – Diane Portelli & Dorian Mallia (Moveo Dance Company); Costume design – Ritienne Zammit; Projection Dance Sequence – MAKA Visuals; Stop-motion animation – Christ Scicluna; Lights – Christopher Gatt


TIERKREIS by Karlheinz Stockhausen (selection)

Pianist – Tricia Dawn Williams; Video production – Ruben Zahra


ALLELUIA by Ruben Zahra

Pianist – Tricia Dawn Williams; Video production – Ruben Zahra; Filming – Sam Chetcuti (Cyberspace AV); Recording Engineer – Luke Grech (Cornerhouse Studios); Mixing Engineer – Matthew James Borg


Filmed at:


The Malta Society of Arts, Valletta

The Malta Society of Arts is, in fact a restored seventeenth century palazzo.  Another building with a turbulent history, this was even home to two brothers who were bailiffs in the eighteenth century – Henri and Guillieume de La Salle, hence the palazzo’s retained name: Palazzo de La Salle.  I feel privileged to have been invited to curate the official opening of its recital hall, whilst embracing all that the MSA stands for, including its professional art gallery, in 2017.  This is a place of creativity which is constantly alive with its many classes and events.  One cannot not mention its hidden gem – one of the earliest private chapels in Malta (dating from the second half of the sixteenth century), enriched with lavish frescoes, including a ca. 1730 3-foot frieze with depictions of St John the Baptist, as well as the coats of arms of Grandmaster Manoel de Vilhena and the de La Salle family.

Artistic Director's Note

Ruben and Dawn are two of the foremost exponents of contemporary music in Malta, with determined drive, creativity, and an openness for interdisciplinarity and innovative thinking, which makes conversations incredibly stimulating, and results, terrific.  We have come up with a programme that will explore a whole gamut of soundworlds and textures, interlaced with evocative imagery and movement. And how more enchanting could the possibly nostalgic, but magical sounds of a toy piano be?


-Dr Michelle Castelletti, Artistic Director, Three Palaces Festival

Photo by Joe Smith

Programme Notes

WATCH CHIMES – Ennio Morricone

This is a short homage to the legendary composer Ennio Morricone who passed away on the 6th of July. This wonderful little theme by Morricone from the movie “For a Few Dollars More” (1965) is played on a Kawai toy piano and shot through a glass sphere which creates a smooth warp to the image due to its optics.


POUNDING – Ruben Zahra

In “Pounding”, Zahra creates a visual narrative to the rhythmic character of his score. The intensity of the percussive clusters in the music are juxtaposed with the scars on the face of a model … yet they fail to blemish her beauty. The hands of the pianist striking the keyboard seem to inflict the scars … resulting in morbid sensual drama. The principal music material of this piece is a low-register percussive cluster which ‘pounds’ its way throughout the piece. The music develops in leaps and bounds surprising the listener with dynamic contrasts and disparity between melodic and rhythmic fragments.



In 1948 John Cage decided to turn back to melody with “Suite for Toy Piano”, inspired by minimalist French composer Erik Satie. Cage liked the abrasive chiming and limited range of the instrument and composed a suite of five short movements, none over two minutes. This work was originally used as music for the choreographed piece by Merce Cunningham, "A Diversion." This suite is in 5 short, numbered movements, and obviously employs a very limited gamut of tones. This suite is one of Cage's most charming and whimsical compositions. It is humorous and somewhat ironic, giving exaggerated dynamics that can't be fully realized on a toy piano.


WORMS CRAWL IN – Ruben Zahra

Note from the composer: The sound of the toy piano reminds me of a mechanical music box which can be often heard accompanying lullabies in movie. I was inspired to compose a creepy lullaby and in my research I came across “The Hearse Song”. The simple melody is typical of children’s songs but the lyrics are about burial and decomposition. According to Wikipedia “The Hearse Song” dates back to during World War I and it became a popular American and British children's song throughout the 20th century. It has many variant titles, lyrics, and melodies, but generally features the line "the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out", and thus is also known as "The Worms Crawl In".


PARADE – Erik Satie

“Parade” is a ballet premiered in Paris in 1917 with music by Erik Satie, scored to a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau with costumes and sets designed by Pablo Picasso. The production featured in this video (Soundscapes 2017) revisits the ballet on an interdisciplinary platform featuring contemporary dance, stop motion animation, puppetry and projection dancing. Composer Ruben Zahra create a new arrangement of the score for piano and toy piano which premieres as part of Three Palaces Festival 2020.


TIERKREIS - Karlheinz Stockhausen (selection)

The 12 melodies that comprise “Tierkreis” (one for each sign of the zodiac )were originally written for 6 percussionists and music boxes as a component part of a theater titled Musik im Bauch (Music in the Belly). On the initiative of the Committee for Art and Culture of the City Council of Cologne, from 6 July 2009 the melody from Tierkreis corresponding to the current Zodiac sign is played daily at noon on the newly restored 48-bell carillon in the tower of the Cologne Town Hall, as a tribute to the composer. Composer Ruben Zahra created a new arrangement for toy piano which premieres as part of Three Palaces Festival 2020.


ALLELUIA – Ruben Zahra

This composition contrasts classical a cappella (SATB) chant with rhythmic syncopated jabs from the live piano. As the music develops, the patterns on the piano are accompanied by a backtrack of electronic pulses and glitches. Most of the material for the piano is derived from the rhythmic configuration of alternative hip hop music. It’s funny how a genre that I actually “do not like” has inspired me to create something completely different. I am fascinated by the relationship between completely different genres of music ... not through "fusion" but rather through a “clash” ... the relationship is in the residue of the “collision” ... the fragments that splinter away ...

Tricia Dawn Williams

Born in Malta, of Irish and Welsh descent, Tricia Dawn Williams is committed to contemporary music, multimedia and new technologies. Her concerts transform the piano recital into an interdisciplinary performance featuring video-art, electronic music and extended piano technique. Williams is one of the first concert pianists to collaborate with developers and composers internationally on the application of motion-capture technology. She uses the MYO band interface on her forearms to manipulate and trigger electronic music in real time during her concerts. As a dedicated promoter of new music, Williams has commissioned, premiered and recorded numerous works. Williams began studying the piano at a very early age with Rita Micallef and was further mentored on 20th century music by Pawlu Grech. In 2010 Williams was appointed secretary of the ‘Malta Association for Contemporary Music’ committed to establish new heights in its goal to promote the performance and understanding of contemporary music.

Photo by Joe Smith

Ruben Zahra

Ruben Zahra is a composer and producer committed to contemporary interdisciplinary expression. His portfolio currently includes five productions - touring internationally in major international festivals, opera houses and theatres. Ruben Zahra studied at the University of Malta; Music Conservatory of Frosinone; the National Music Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome and Mills College in Oakland, California.  Ruben Zahra is a cultural entrepreneur and promoter of contemporary music. He is director of the culture organisation ‘Soundscapes’, president of the ‘Malta Association for Contemporary Music’, publisher of ‘ENCORE’ – Malta’s arts & culture magazine and artistic director of the Malta International Arts Festival.

Photo by Stephen Buhagiar


WATCH CHIMES by Ennio Morricone

for toy piano


POUNDING by Ruben Zahra

for piano and video



for toy piano


WORMS CRAWL IN by Ruben Zahra

for toy piano and backtrack


PARADE by Erik Satie

for piano and toy piano


TIERKREIS by Karlheinz Stockhausen (selection)

for toy piano


ALLELUIA by Ruben Zahra

for piano and backtrack

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Disclaimer: All the necessary precautions to safeguard our artists and crew were taken during the filming of this project. 'Out of the Cage' is produced by Festivals Malta, in collaboration with the Valletta Cultural Agency, The Malta Society of Arts and Arts Council Malta. The Three Palaces Festival is sponsored by Kinnie, Hertz, MAPFRE MSV Life and the Ministry for National Heritage, The Arts and Local Government.

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