Q&A with Vienna, February 2005

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Q&A with Vienna, February 2005

Postby Vienna » Mon Feb 14, 2005 9:54 am

Hi everybody. Hope this is as interesting as the last round :)

Here's something I've often wondered: what do you look for in music? Take a song you've really loved or connected with: what was it that made it so compelling?

I listen to music for my own particular reasons — some conscious, some not — and I try to write music that I would listen to. But they may not be the same reasons as yours, so I'm curious.

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Postby The_Man_in_Blue » Mon Feb 14, 2005 10:00 am

Thank you for being so available to your fans. We appreciate this opportunity to ask questions, feel free to ignore any that are too intrusive or too time consuming. I am one of the few in my family who didn’t become a teacher, but even so I have an interest in education issues. I am curious. Did you attend public schools or did your parents send you to private schools? Are there any memories of school experiences, either elementary school or high school that you are willing to share? Are there any memorable teachers? What preschool learning did your parents provide? Besides piano lessons were there other extracurricular enrichment in elementary school or high school?

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Postby The_Man_in_Blue » Mon Feb 14, 2005 10:04 am

In a recent post, Shawn suggested getting a male country music star to record a cover of Homecoming as a way to boost your career. I have had similar thoughts that getting your music performed or recorded by musicians with large numbers of existing fans would be helpful to your career. What are your feelings about having this happen? I can see the obvious upside of greater exposure for your music and financial rewards of royalty payments generated by having your music recorded by someone who can command automatic inclusion on radio station play lists. The downside, if someone else records your song and it is a hit, is that in the eyes of the general public it will become their song. Would this be an acceptable cost for the career benefits, or would it feel like you have had a “child” abducted by a stranger, one who may not have guided it the manner you would have chosen?
A related question is how much control you retain over the use of your music by others. I am under the impression that you do still control the copyright on your music. Not being in the music industry, I am unfamiliar with how signing with ASCAP affects your ability to prevent others from using your music for uses you don’t approve. Can anyone perform or record your songs by paying an industry standard royalty, or would they also have to get your approval? In short, the reason for asking these questions can be summed up by this question. Would your fans be doing you a favor or a disservice by promoting your songs to other musicians?

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Postby pudding » Mon Feb 14, 2005 10:52 am

For me it is just that….a connection to something that occurred to me sometime in the past or present or what I see in the future(and that depends on my mood). Most often it is the obvious but recently the lines have been blurred.

Take for instance Lullaby….that song connected me to my childhood where I lay awake by many of a thunderstorms too scared to move but yet wanting to flee to my parent’s bedroom (which I eventually did) for comfort. It brought back that feeling of comfort right away.

I connected to the song Harbor for obvious reasons when I was separated from my loved ones.

But then the less obvious occurred and now I am being reeled in by your fictitious stories and imagination as well. The song “Anna Rose”, which I did like but was lower on my playlist (but it was still on there) suddenly grabbed me and the difference was in the delivery….I was listening to one of your live performances and in this performance you were singing freely with the song…humming in between versus which was absolutely beautiful and I just imagined that’s how I would want to sing to my child if I had one and I found that very touching. Needless to say, it’s higher on my playlist now.

To break it down, it’s the lyrics that does it for me. A good example of this is the song by Five for Fighting, “100 Years”, I have heard that song on the radio many, many times but only until I consciously listened to the lyrics did I “connect” with the song and it’s on my playlist as well now.

Of course, the music selection and criteria differs when it comes time to party or for dancing .


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Postby The Troubadour » Mon Feb 14, 2005 2:53 pm

In response to Vienna's introductory question:

Songs resonate with me because of their melodies and their lyrics. (As I've gotten older and more aware, arrangement/production has also begun to factor into this resonance, but still at a lesser level). Sometimes I'll enjoy a song for its music but not its lyrics, or vice versa; such songs, though enjoyable, don't necessarily "move" me. However, if the melody and the lyrics both strike me (and really, it has to do with personal taste and preference about melodic/lyrical style), I begin to feel particularly drawn to that song. Some examples: Tori Amos's "A Sorta Fairytale," Elton John's "Empty Garden," and your "Decade and One."

If you wanted to analyze it, I'd say that piano-based melodies with vivid, semi-narrative lyrics are most resonant for me. Perhaps because that's the type of music I write. Or maybe I write that type of music BECAUSE that's what resonates with me.

. . . this question is harder to answer than it first appears.

And, a rejoinder for you: tell us about "Blue Caravan," if you feel so inclined. It resonated with me strongly when I heard you play it live, and I wanted to know more about it, its origins, and its future. :D

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Postby Ang Mo » Mon Feb 14, 2005 2:58 pm

Here's something I've often wondered: what do you look for in music? Take a song you've really loved or connected with: what was it that made it so compelling?

For me, the music has to strike either an emotional chord within me, or triggers a memory from the past, or the song contains words that evoke some imagery or idea that I can relate too.

The questions I wish to ask you are:

1. You toured extensively last year and seemed to be constantly on the road. Of all your many travels, which was your favorite and most memorable place to perform and which format (ie, house concert, large music hall, or small venue)?

2. On a somewhat similar idea, which place do you think you gave your very best performance. The one place where everything seemed to click and be in perfect harmony and sync?

Thank you in advance.
--the only adults who are never depressed: chuckleheads, California surfers, and fundamentalist Christians who believe they have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are saved once and for all. Would you trade your depression to become any of these?

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Postby Ginny » Mon Feb 14, 2005 5:12 pm

Vienna wrote:What do you look for in music?  Take a song you've really loved or connected with: what was it that made it so compelling?

That is kind of a hard question for me. My initial response would be that lyrics are the most important thing to me. I'm not very good with words and the music that means most to me usually touches me first with the words. That's why Tori Amos is one of my favorites--she says things that I can't articulate: "I've got lizards and snakes running through my body funny how they all have my face" for when my thoughts are so dark, "I'll say it loud here by your grave, those angels can't ever take my place" when faced with a death, or "I've been raising up my hands, drive another nail in, just what God needs, one more victim." Or when you wrote "I've come home even though I swear I've never been so alone" and I stopped breathing for a minute because it so perfectly articulated how I felt the moment I pulled up to my new home when I moved to NC. Sometimes I simply find a phrase to be beautiful even if it doesn't particularly represent something to me: "She turns out the light, anticipates the night falling tenderly around her." I LOVE that. "I'm trying not to move, it's just your ghost passing through" (tori). Sometimes it's an atmosphere the words give a song, like in Decade and One when you're thinking of the child upstairs, the God upstairs, the man asleep on his side of the bed--I can feel the dark and solitude of that night when I listen to the song. Or the song, <a href='http://www.quinlanroad.com/explorethemusic/thevisit.asp?id=86' target='_blank'>"Courtyard Lullaby"</a> by Loreena McKennitt. I could site alot of examples but you and Tori write the most meaningful songs to me so I mostly stick to those songs when having this discussion. :)

But then there's all the beautiful classical music I love and lyrics aren't involved in most of that. The second movement of the Sonata for Trumpet and Piano by Eric Ewazen is the most heartstoppingly beautiful thing I've ever heard, at least when played well (it's butchered more often than not). The harmonies and dissonance, the intensity if done right will make your heart weep. When my accompanist and I do it well the pianist is in tears and I'm fighting it by the end. Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 26 Opus 81A, Mvt. III played by Murray Perahia is to die for or the Hindemith Trumpet Sonata's third movement, about death from war when played by my trumpet professor. So in the case of classical music I think that the performance itself means the most to me. I listen for anything that strikes me as beautiful harmonically but it has to be intense as well. I love chromaticism and dissonance like in the second movement of Second Symphony by Frank Tichelli, but if the performer is insensitive and/or afraid to show their soul then I have no interest in listening. I'm often bored at classical concerts because most of them don't make me feel anything, whereas a Tori Amos concert/cd or a you concert/cd (lol) lets me feel a broad range of things that I keep closed off when the music is off. I think that's the reason that even though I'm a classical performer I'm more drawn to singer/songwriters than classical music when it comes to listening. Ok, that was wordy. Sorry but like I said, it's a hard question and I'm not good with words! Ok, I'll ask you something later but now I have to get back to practicing! ~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 Ant - NY » Mon Feb 14, 2005 5:20 pm

In response to your question:
Music is one of the means through which somebody else’s vibrations can reach me. Therefore I prefer music where the personal (rather than somebody’s else) stories are told. (Mission Street, Enough to go by, for example). Personal stories reach me with a higher energy...maybe because they come from a different (deeper) place…. Music is quite an intimate thing, and every one of us prefers the music that is more in line with our own vibrations in any particular time. In conclusion, in music I look for energy, meditation, connection and expression of truth.

My questions:

1) Has the relation between you and your fans ever been artistically enriching? Or is it simply an enjoyable part of your profession, but with no connection to the creative part of your job? And, is fame changing your way of doing music?
2) And an easy one: how much TV do you watch and what are your favorite programs?

Thanks a lot Vienna for taking the time. :)

Ant NY

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Postby Jazzfrac » Mon Feb 14, 2005 6:41 pm

I think lyrics and composition draw me in the most to music. I personally love when the lyrics are either personal or at least something the artist truly believes, or when they put their minds in the song's character's minds. That is why I mostly like singer/songwriters (Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Damien Rice, Tori Amos, Elliott Smith, and you of course). I think all of your songs have at least one of those qualities where the listener can tell, that you really put your feeling into the poetry. Also composition and arrangement are very important to me. As a classical and jazz listener/amateur performer I've learned to appreciate the beauty of harmonies, dynamics and many elements of music theory. I really like when music (like yours) has some of those classical or jazz elements in it, as this adds a lot to my overall enjoyment.

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Postby Erik » Mon Feb 14, 2005 6:48 pm

Vienna wrote:What do you look for in music?  Take a song you've really loved or connected with: what was it that made it so compelling?

As a child, the first record I purchased (with my own "earned" money) was Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy". I played the record for weeks on end, over and over. It brought a smile to my face every time I heard it. It helped me to escape any family or middle school issues that cropped up throughout the day. The lyrics inspired me, even though I didn't know what some of them meant at the time. It is a very simple song, no elaborate orchestration, just Bobby's voice. At the time, I guess it was something I needed to have as a companion. I was very alone in the mid to late 80's, so the song became a good friend.

"Don't Worry Be Happy" Copyright 1988 Bobby McFerrin, from the album "Simple Pleasures"

Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy
Don't worry, be happy now

Don't worry, be happy Don't worry, be happy
Don't worry, be happy Don't worry, be happy

Ain't got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don't worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don't worry, be happy
Don't worry, be happy

Don't worry, be happy, Don't worry, be happy
Don't worry, be happy, Don't worry, be happy

As time went on and issues became more complex in life, I started to listen to more and more music. Loud angry music when I felt angry, soft soothing music when I needed to relax, nice happy melodies when I felt happy. Music for every emotion. Now that I've revisited my childhood, I think I may need to find my Bobby McFerrin record later to give it a listen and see if it still has the same effect.

Thanks for asking Vienna!

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Postby kinopio42 » Mon Feb 14, 2005 6:52 pm

Music has the biggest impact in me when it brings out emotions in me that I haven't fully processed on my own.

Passage and The Atheist's Christmas Carol really clobbered me in this regard.

Q: How do audiences react when you perform "Passage" live? Is it a downer? I thought about requesting it at one of your shows...

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Postby JohnL » Mon Feb 14, 2005 7:15 pm

what do you look for in music?

To me the most important thing is the overall sound. For pop/folk/jazz music, I tend to like a musical piece if there’s an interesting structure and instrumental arrangement which works well to complement a beautiful voice singing intelligent, poetic lyrics. Add some fine musicianship to the mix in the form of nifty instrumental solo passages, and that usually clinches the deal. I guess I personally tend to attach more importance to the music rather than the lyrics. I can think of a bunch of songs that I like that have silly or not so great lyrics, but I can’t think of too many that I like which are deficient in terms of musical style. I think a song should be something more than just a poem set to a beat. But any tune that successfully evokes a certain mood or strong feeling in me is usually something I like.

Question for you (bugging me since last summer): What makes Teitur think you’re such a princess?

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Postby WhiteUponBlack » Mon Feb 14, 2005 7:40 pm

Viennnnnna!!!!!!!!! I can't believe you've opened this up again; I couldn't express how happy I am with all the words in the world!!!!!! Anyways....in answer to your oh-so-compelling question....

Music to me is expression. I listen for sincerity and passion from the artist, but also (and mostly) depth and insight. Your songs offer both. I know it sounds horribly cliche, but I love music that makes me feel, music that awakens some undiscovered corner of the humanity inside me and prods me to conciousness in every sense of the word. Anyways...sorry 'bout all that rambling... :lol:

I'm still thinking of a question to ask you. I'm so completely overwhelmed with the oppurtunity! The wide-eyed, aspiring front-row fan is finally presented a chance to approach his inspiration....what to ask?? What to say! For now, THANK YOU. I'll be back soon!!
<span style='font-size:8pt;line-height:100%'>Rats<br><br>There are rats in the rooms of my soul.<br>They gnaw at the walls and shred the floorboards with their claws.<br>They nest in my piles of discontent<br>And stir up the dust on long empty shelves.<br>They chase the sunlight away<br>And grate upon the silence of serenity with their jagged teeth.<br>They echo their horrid cries in the dead of the night<br>And keep me awake with fear.<br>Oh, how I loathe them!<br>If only they would leave<br>And let me be!<br>Yet<br>I will not let them. </span>

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Postby deewren1 » Mon Feb 14, 2005 7:56 pm

Hi, my name is Demetrius Wren, and I am a film student at the Florida State University Conservatory of Motion Picture Arts (http://filmschool.fsu.edu/). In the coming months, we will start pre-production on our thesis film, which is about an young Chinese immigrant mother. It's the story of how she struggles to raise her children after the sudden death of her husband. I have teamed up with my friend and fellow classmate, Wilson G. Tang, and he suggested that we contact you. After listening to your music and falling in love with it, we feel that your voice, muscianship and poetry are exactly what our film needs to come to life. We would be delighted if you would consider performing in our short thesis film. We can't imagine any one else in the role.

You can read a copy of the script online here:

<a href='http://garnet.acns.fsu.edu/~wgt02/ofmygod.pdf' target='_blank'>http://garnet.acns.fsu.edu/~wgt02/ofmygod.pdf</a>

Please consider our offer. Production will last six days sometime during the summer. We will be shooting the movie on Super16. It will premiere sometime in the middle of December as part of our graduation. Thank you for your time.




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Postby Laura » Mon Feb 14, 2005 9:34 pm

Hello, Vienna. Let me just say first that it's amazing to be able to chat back and forth with someone who's music I adore so much!

As for what makes a song really "click" with me... if it can express what I feel inside, in a much more articulate and beautiful way than I ever could. "My Medea" is my favorite song of all time for this reason.

My question for you, and it's a fairly uncreative one: Can we expect any new releases anytime soon? While I'm still always discovering new ways to love both of your CD's, nothing would thrill me more so than new songs from you. : D Also, do you ever plan on recording some of your rarities I've seen lyrics floating around for, like "Mira" or "Signal Fire"? I already love both of these songs without even hearing them performed!

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