Q&A with Vienna, December 2007

Chat and sip. Beret optional.

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Postby Ginny » Sat Dec 22, 2007 3:35 pm

@coffee!sugar: I'm really sorry about the loss of your friend, Rick. I don't know what else to say, just I'm sorry. And stay safe while traveling. ~Ginny
"I'm going crazy a little every day. Everything I wanted is now driving me away." ~Sheryl Crow (Home)

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Postby Michele » Sun Dec 23, 2007 9:21 pm

CrazyOne wrote:But, very funny to stop in here now and find you have mentioned stroopwafels, not because I can really yet share your addiction, but because last night I had a little blue and white tin of them in my hand at Trader Joe's and I didn't buy them! Guess I need to go back and try. Just a few bucks for a little tin, and as with many of their seasonal sweet items they are I believe imported from Europe and could be reasonably authentic.

Thanks for the tip! I went to TJ's in search of these. They weren't listed in their Holiday Flyer, and they weren't up front with the rest of the holiday stuff, so I sulked. I found them up where the snacks are, above the freezer cases. I grabbed the tin and walked off, but turned it over and saw the TJ's label on it. I went back and found some bags of mini stroopwafels next to the tins, which were from Holland. I took those home and they got devoured. So I got more the next day, and got the TJ's tin to compare. The TJ's ones are normal size, but they're not as cinnamony as the ones in the bag. It's a nice tin though.

I should have some pics of the band snacking on them soon...

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Postby umbra » Thu Dec 27, 2007 5:12 am

"So now I have this whole planet that's populated with all these characters who have this rich human thought and history.... I might write it all down some day."

Omnivore's Dilemma, Grapes of Wrath,

When is your own book coming out?


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Postby umbra » Thu Dec 27, 2007 3:36 pm

Oh yeah, sorry for jumping on ya Disneyfish. I didn't mean for that to come out the way it did.
No haven for this heart

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Postby sheeba » Sat Dec 29, 2007 12:22 am

I'm also going to second Seaspray's question about In Rainbows, because damn. Any thoughts on the album, and what do you think of their method of digital distribution?

But I do wonder about the viability of a model like that in the YouTube/BitTorrent age; there's an entire generation that's growing up with the idea that you can always get media for free. Would they really pay for it voluntarily?

I'm pretty sure Jane Siberry (now known as Issa) pioneered self-determined pricing on her website in 2005. She's now gone so far as to make her music only available in mp3 format to eliminate plastic/paper waste. In an interview she confirmed that since she instituted self-determined pricing, the average income she receives per song is in fact slightly more than standard price. Not sure if Jane's older fan base has anything to do with that. She also gives away free "guest" tickets for fans to bring people who would not normally attend one of her shows but who might enjoy it or who can't afford it.
Last edited by sheeba on Sun Jan 06, 2008 5:29 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: squirrels

Postby Vienna » Sat Dec 29, 2007 12:44 am

Shows are done! Presents procured and opened! Hope you're all having some good year's-end time, whether it's with family or alone in reflection, or on vacation somewhere new...

Time to come back to the Q&A. Thanks for your patience.

taft wrote:Do you like squirrels?

Pie...socks...squirrels...I'm waiting for someone to ask if I'm a Rhymenoceros or Hiphopopotamus kind of girl.

I woke up one morning in college to find a bushy-tailed creature rummaging through the candy jar on my desk. So I did have a squirrel nemesis for a moment there. Only over Wethers butterscotches, though.

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Re: squirrels

Postby WintermoonSnow » Sat Dec 29, 2007 12:54 am

Vienna wrote:I'm waiting for someone to ask if I'm a Rhymenoceros or Hiphopopotamus kind of girl.

That was a hilarious video! Thanks for the share XD

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Postby teahobbyist » Sat Dec 29, 2007 1:11 am


So, I've been a sort-of-maybe-actually-quite-likely stalker lurking in the shadows fan for quite a long time, and it's only been as of recently that I remembered that there was indeed a forum for us Tengsters to mosey at.

I remember that a couple of years ago, you performed at the Great American Music Hall in SF, but recently, you've been opting for the Independent. While there is no doubt (from what I've heard) that it's quite the nice venue, any chance you'll be coming back to SF to perform in a non-21+ club? It's just not fair to youngsters like us who gotta be content to stay at home and, I don't know, roll around on the floor or something. If you don't have an answer, could you possibly suggest several sure fire methods of inconspicuously strolling into the Independent? C:

Thank you!~

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Postby Vienna » Sat Dec 29, 2007 2:34 am

Hi rtu! Sorry we'll miss each other...I'll be here on the West Coast until mid-January. Happy post-Christmas pre-New-Year to you, though.

rtu wrote:the forum has discussed great places we think you should perform, but is there a particular place you've always wanted to perform?

I'm with my friend Eddie: "I wanna see a VT Fillmore poster." Hopefully it'll still be around if/when I can draw enough of an audience to play there.

Carnegie Hall would be pretty amazing, too.

what living person would you most want to meet and why?

I'd love to be able to hold an intelligent conversation with anybody in the social entrepreneurship sector: Jeffrey Sachs, Muhammad Yunus, Bono, Bill & Melinda Gates, etc. Or with anybody at Participant Productions. Or Jon Stewart.

For your scrapbook postings, do you keep a journal and then just post certain entries from it or do you just write them when you have time?

I write them when I (believe I) have time. Which is quite seldom these days, apparently. I need to remind myself that some things help the songwriting, i.e. my real job, more than I realize. Talking long walks and composing good scrapbook entries are two of them.

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Postby Vienna » Sat Dec 29, 2007 3:57 am

Reileen wrote:ANOTHER QUESTION: Do you think it's creepy that I did fanart of you? XD

umbra wrote:What do you think of us, the adoring fans?

dreaminghour wrote:what is all this with people are asking about socks?

GEORGE wrote:The other question haunting me all day is why someone would ask you if you liked squirrels.

Digital wrote:what do you think about all the constant attention? I just have to think it gets hard some nights.

Well... ;)

I'm having some difficulty coming up with a good answer. I mean, yes: it's odd to be the object of strangers' attention, even if I put my music out there hoping something like that would happen. It's strange to think that some of you might have the same kind of intense curiosity about me as a person as I have about artists that I really love.

I wouldn't say that it's hard on me; I just don't know that I'm cut out for being as accessible and responsive as I should be. I love making new friends at shows; I love performing, talking about songwriting, feeling like I'm doing something worthwhile. But talking about myself for extended periods, or having attention focused on me on an ongoing basis, does get uncomfortable. It's easy to hit a point where I wonder why anybody cares what I'm thinking, and why it should matter. It's about the music, in the end—that's where the emotional connection really happens. As a person I'm of secondary interest. Along with my opinions about squirrels.
Last edited by Vienna on Sat Dec 29, 2007 7:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Vienna » Sat Dec 29, 2007 6:11 am

@coffee!sugar: I can only imagine that Rick's going-away party was an emotional but beautiful thing. Thanks for telling us that story; so sorry that we've lost him.

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Postby asteroid » Sat Dec 29, 2007 6:50 am

Vienna wrote:
Digital wrote:what do you think about all the constant attention? I just have to think it gets hard some nights.

You possess us constant satellites because you are the blazing sun :) Anyone who gives off such brilliant rays of art and philosophy would attract great attention!

Attention is as various as people. Your "satellites" may be curious about your love affairs (but if you don't tell then we won't ask), but it's totally different from the way they concern about Britney Spears' love affairs. What we want to know about her is "how", while about you is "why". Because you are someone special to us, and to civilization.

But I am very curious if you have ever written songs in Chinese :)
Vienna's volunteer agent on midomi.com

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Postby Vienna » Sat Dec 29, 2007 6:59 am

Hey umbra! Congrats on finishing your application—hope it was a less agonizing and stressful process for you than it was for me!

umbra wrote:When you started, were you nervous to perform in public?

Playing my own songs was easy, compared to getting through a Bach fugue intact at a piano recital. It was annoying the way my voice would betray the slightest bit of tension, though. I was glad my first gigs were in noisy coffeehouses.

Why the pseudonym?

This is more complicated to answer than I thought. A few partial explanations: several people share my legal name, but so far as I know there's only one Vienna Teng out there. It was useful for reserving domains and usernames online. (My sister also agrees that it sounds cooler.) It started out almost as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to my pre-teen self, but then gained its own momentum and stuck. It used to give me a thrill to hear someone address me by a name I'd invented—it reminded me of how much of my own identity was up to me to define, how we're not as tied to our roots as we sometimes think.

In college the pseudonym also took on a life of its own, when I was unsure whether I wanted to go into music. My diaries make references to how "she wants to be real; she wants her chance and she's determined to get it." Music is one of the few things in my life I've had a fierce conviction about, and at times that stubbornness did seem to come from someone outside my own head. It was also a form of protection against the spotlight, I guess. I didn't expect to become really famous, but I liked the idea of holding something in reserve, something that wasn't up for scrutiny, and keeping my other name for that. Vienna would be the name I'd have when I had to be "on," and I could change out of it at the end of the day, like a set of clothes.

These days it's kind of a mess, to be honest. I have some dear friends who've seen some pretty dark private moments, and who know me only as Vienna; meanwhile friends from high school struggle over what to call me in public. I've missed flights because my ticket was booked under a name that doesn't match my passport. Fortunately there seem to be two groups who find the whole thing perfectly natural: online folk, who often blog under two or more pseudonyms; and my parents, who figure that if Chinese scholars wrote poems under different names, why not a kid who publishes lyrics?

Sorry for harping on this question, but I just so happen to be applying to Stanford right now (actually, I applied fifteen minutes ago), and on the Stanford supplement there is a question: "why do you think that Stanford would be a good choice for you." In order to answer this question faithfully, I did a little Stanford research. I came across a tradition called the "Viennese Ball."

1. Did this Stanford institution effect your choice of stage-name, or was it coincidence?

Coincidence! I'd decided on the stage name long before I knew that Stanford used to have an overseas program in Vienna, or that the alums of that program had come back to campus and decided to re-create European ball season for the sweatshirt-and-flipflops crowd.

I was an alternate for the Opening Committee one year. I don't know how I got even that far, considering the actual group consisted mostly of ballerinas and choreographers.

2. If you know the video I'm talking about, was that the Viennese Ball?

That was Big Dance, the all-night one in the spring that they have every year. It was interesting playing on a piano as it bounced slightly from hundreds of dancers waltzing across a sprung floor—more or less in sync, at that.

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Postby Vienna » Sat Dec 29, 2007 8:14 am

Hello to Sarah, from Myra Ellen ;)

disneyphish wrote:What would it take to get you to play in Orlando? Disney tickets? I can arrange that! Key lime pie? I'll bake you a couple.

Aww, that's so sweet... Believe it or not, I've been trying to make it down to central and eastern Florida for some time now. A Gainesville-Orlando-Tampa-Ft. Lauderdale run, maybe? We'd probably have to make it a house concert trip, though—it doesn't look like there are many quiet venues of the right size for me (e.g. reeeeal cozy) down in the Sunshine State.

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Postby Vienna » Sat Dec 29, 2007 8:26 am

Hello Orcrist! Hope you're getting a nice snowy holiday season.

Orcrist wrote:I got to see you when you came all the way out to Moundridge, KS [...] Did you enjoy playing there as much as we enjoyed hearing you

Sure did. Who knew that such a lovely audience (and venue) would be waiting for us in a one-stoplight town in farm country?

On your next major touring expedition, are you going to come back to the Kansas-Oklahoma-ish area?

Absolutely. I can't promise when the next national tour will be, but it's so good to see audiences growing in the Midwest, to the point where we can afford to add that whole area to the itinerary. It'll be probably be a Texas-to-Minnesota journey (or vice versa), along good ol' I-35.

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