Q&A with Vienna, February 2005

Chat and sip. Beret optional.

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Ang Mo
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Postby Ang Mo » Thu Feb 17, 2005 2:39 am

Thank you Vienna for answering my previous questions.

I have just a few more:

What compelled you to do the "Wall of Pillows"?

Have you ever gone scuba diving with Mr. Cheng?

What is your favorite food?

And to Scot if you are reading this:

If the lunch duties carry over to me then I will make Ayam Panggang. I love it because I don't think I can pronounce it correctly. :lol: If someone knows the phonetic pronunciation please let me know.
--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 KT7 » Thu Feb 17, 2005 4:12 am

Hi Vienna!
Just wanted to say I love your music, I choreographed my dance solo for college auditions to "gravity" That song is just so powerful to me.
Your cds are just amazing.
Anyway, my question for you is if you are planning on coming into new york city to perform any time soon?

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Postby TDG » Thu Feb 17, 2005 4:36 am

Hello again Vienna,

A question:

What is the first non-classical song you learned to play and at what age?

A long-winded comment with a question:

I understand that you were offered recording contracts by various companies, but you refused on the grounds that you did not want to subject yourself to getting a corporate approved make-over. I clearly appreciate and applaud your resistance to conforming to the standards set by industry executives. (Personally, I have a strong aversion to women who cake on the crap as if they came off an assembly line. Make-up is for clowns, I always say.) But on the other hand, what harm could it possibly do? All I’m thinking of is something along the lines of styling your hair a little bit. Please don’t take this as negative criticism, because I honestly think you are attractive. But I also think you would look more attractive in longer hair with bangs, maybe a style similar to Jennifer Anniston. I am one of the first to agree looks are purely superficial. (and if you saw me, you’d easily understand) I for one detest the sad fact the market is heavy with pretty faces and light on talent. But it seems to me that giving in (and just a little bit) to the demands of a record company might be a reasonable trade off as long as it clearly does not intrude on your creative rights as an artist. Of course most record executives only care about selling their product. But naturally, selling your work is in your best interest as well, yes? The only analogy I can think of at the moment is this: it’s is easier to sell car good looking car that runs like crap than it is to sell a crappy looking car that runs well. Your thoughts my dear?

ps: just to be perfectly clear, when I say *crappy looking*, it is solely intended for the purpose of the analogy and is in no way meant to imply anything else.

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Postby littlepieceofyoursong » Thu Feb 17, 2005 4:36 am

Hey Vienna!

Thanks again for doing this. Just one question: Have you read anything good lately? Silly question, but the last book recommendations you gave me were wonderful, so I figured I'd hit you up for some more. ;).

Also, in case Vienna doesn't answer this one, I think the "wall of pillows" is there to function as a series of reflectors and absorbers of sound waves. In a studio it's very important to not have a square shaped room with flat surfaces; it causes the sound waves to bounce back and forth without changing direction, which means there are good pockets and bad pockets. Two people standing at different places in a room like that could be hearing different sounds, espcially when discerning high and low frequencices. Curved surfaces make the waves bounce off into odd directions, which creates a more "flat" sound in the room, in which you get a more accurate idea of the sound image. That, or maybe Vienna thought the wall needed a bit more pizazz. :)

Pardon the rambling. Back into hiding I go....


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Postby Frances » Thu Feb 17, 2005 5:31 am

Dear Vienna:

That is so cool and at the same time eery that your dream is to record with a taiko ensemble because that is a secret music dream of mine too (but very very far-fetched for me!). I had a friend who used to play with a taiko ensemble but I never had the chance to see her perform live with her group. She told me that taiko drummers are very athletic (the training/practicing is like a martial art at times) and also that the male drummers all have very finely defined rippling muscles all over (not the bulky kind that you see from guys who drink protein shakes, pump iron, and have no necks). I hope that you get to fulfill this ambition. Of playing with a taiko enesmble that is (not rippling muscles)!

Question: When you write piano motifs or come up with them, how do you remember them all? Do you record them on your computer, or do you just remember them in your head, or do you write them down? I'm very fascinated with the process because to me a lot of your piano accompaniment has a lot of variations to the themes so I'm wondering how in the world you remember it all, if you don't write it down in "tadpoles" on music paper. Or do you just hear it in your head so clearly that you can just play it? Thank you very much (for me, I have to ultimately write it out in tadpoles to get a better sounding accompaniment in the end).

Ant - NY
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Postby Ant - NY » Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:48 am

Vienna asked us what is our definition of success is.
Yes, it would be much easier in a kitchen, but around here the atmosphere is nice :) . So, I’ll try to draft my definition.

I view my life as a continuous learning experience, and success is the incremental process of achieving all the goals I set during this journey, both professionally and personally. Success is greater when we manage to keep the natural balance between professional ambitions and personal commitments, social life and inner spirit, present achievements and future dreams. I believe in the possibility of creating my own opportunities and, once they come my way, embracing them with optimism and confidence.
In my profession I am satisfied with what I have achieved so far, and I would like to go on pursuing a rewarding career in my industry. I don’t know where I’ll be (geographically) ten years from now (and I like this). In my personal life, I believe that selfishness will always lead to failure and that real success can only be achieved with the help of others (and by helping others). And most of all, love is important in any moment more than anything else.....

Changing subject, I just read that Vienna refused several contracts to be able to do things her own way. If this is true, this is something rare and courageous. I truly respect that (this would answer one of my questions in the pipeline too). Tough choice.

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Postby Scot » Thu Feb 17, 2005 7:23 am

Vienna wrote:
I think I'm in a phase where I'm starting to enjoy the larger venues.
... a Steinway grand and a rapt audience of around 3,000. Wouldn't mind duplicating that experience a few times.

I'm actually pleased to hear this, although I'll miss the Party Barn days when this becomes the norm.

Your thinking, though, made me laugh a bit with what I'm going through in my own life right now. We just
turned down a solid offer to work at a University who's pride and joy is a new 20" telescope on their roof
top, for a promised, but not yet tendered, offer from an institute with an 8m telescope! Ahh, did anyone ever
really say size doesn't matter? Music venues, telescopes, ....!

My little attempt at a Vienna Teng WWW page (Set lists, song info., and more...)

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Postby rahau » Thu Feb 17, 2005 7:25 am

Dear Ms. Abramowitz:

Thanks for taking the questions. First: Speaking of Q&A, I’m wondering if I’m the only one who, while watching “Inside The Actors Studio,” has casually thought, How would Vienna answer the James Lipton/Bernard Pivot Questionnaire? No doubt, many of your fans are simply dying to know your favorite curse word.

My question: I’ve always wanted to hear more about your background as a classical pianist. Is it true, as the SF Chronicle once reported, that you gave two-hour piano recitals while still in your teens? Are there any Klavierwerken that remain particular favorites? Any you would like to try your hand at, someday? Just a thought, but I think it would be a huge kick to hear you perform Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” with MTT and the SF Symphony.

About songwriting: Good heavens, most people have no idea how hard it is. We’re talking about two completely different crafts: musical composition and poetry. Most of the songs in The Great American Songbook were written by teams - one composer, one lyricist. In those days, the music took precedence over the words. The lyrics were usually some sort of love song, and were never meant to complete with, say, Rilke or Ferlinghetti. (Although, to be fair, some actually could. Sometimes I Wonder … As Time Goes By.)

With the advent of the singer-songwriter in the sixties, the lyrics took center stage, and the music became secondary. Most of the songs written in the post-Dylan era have had lyrics of great depth, but the music remains pretty simplistic, rarely straying far from the tried and true chord progressions. Offhand, I can only name a few singer-songwriters who are equally adept at writing music and poetry on an equally challenging level. Janis Ian. Paul Simon. A certain songwriter from Saratoga, California …

Good lyrics, like all good writing, must have what the noted editor Rust Hills called “an originality of perception and utterance.” In other words, seeing and saying things from an entirely new perspective. Easier said than done. How many songs have been written about couples breaking up? Too many to mention. How many have been as powerful and memorable as Janis Ian’s “In The Winter,” or your “Between?” Not many.

The key to good music is in the chord progressions. The melody is always the child of the chords. Too many modern songwriters simply don’t know enough about music, and end up with chord progressions that are either ploddingly dull and predictable, or bizarre and jarring for the sole purpose of being bizarre and jarring.

I vaguely recall an interviewer once asking you about the similarities between songwriting and software. You replied that chord changes are a form of sequential logic. I almost stood up and cheered when I read that. I’ve always thought that really good chord progressions are like the plot of a good novel. They draw you in, they hold your interest. They may seem to go off in unexpected directions, but in the end, they make perfect sense.

Funny thing – if there is one person on this board who shares my tastes in music, it’s my friend Jack. He’s a self-described “bumblebee,” who is primarily lyric-driven. I’m an ex-music major who is primarily music-driven. We have totally different perspectives, yet we agree on most things, especially your songs and singing. So forget all that corporate market-research claptrap, and just write the best songs possible. Trust your instincts and talent. What the hell, it seems to be working pretty well so far.

And for pete’s sake, please don’t even think about a goddam makeover. Oy vay! You need a makeover like Donald Trump needs more real estate. I think most of us would agree with the lyric from My Funny Valentine:

“Don’t change a hair for me,
Not if you care for me…”

Sorry for the length of this post. Hey, Ang Mo shouldn't be the only one allowed to rant!

Mazel Tof, and Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Warm Stranger
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Postby wolding » Thu Feb 17, 2005 2:53 pm

Hi Vienna,
Thanks for opening the Q&A again. I was simply going to enjoy the view, until I saw dbeattie's entry under the "sheet music" topic. That reminded me of a question I've had for a while: why is dbeattie transcribing your music to paper, instead of you?

As for your question: emotion is the number one thing that draws me to a song or an artist's music in general. I am also interested in the production, the orchestration, the melody, and of course the words. But even if I don't understand the lyrics because they are in a language other than English, it is the emotion that gets to me first.

Thanks again,

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Postby starburst » Thu Feb 17, 2005 4:22 pm

"what would you define as success?"

I guess my definition of success for myself, would be to do something I'm truly passionate about, day-in, day-out. Sometimes I wonder though, when I reach the step, if what I'm passionate about becomes my job, will I still be passionate about it? My passion or success would be starting and running my own restaurant. However, I'm not sure if I have what it takes to run my own business and the talent/skills neccessary for it to be successful. I suppose it's all about taking the risks! I think that's one of the things I admire about Vienna and some others I know, is the courage to leave a stable job to do something that they really love (and obviously has the talent for ;)). Along with that though, success for me, is also about developing/nurturing fabulous relationships with friends and family and gaining new life experiences in becoming a better person.

so along Ang Mo's theme of food questions....

Vienna, What is one of your favorite restaurants? (where is it, and is it the food, memories, atmosphere that make it your favorite)?

Also, What's one of your favorite dishes to make? (maybe you could share a recipe? ;))

Thanks, Starburst*

Warm Stranger
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Postby JohnL » Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:40 pm

Hi Vienna,

A final question to give you a chance to throw some jabs at us:

Is there anything you would like to see your fans and audiences do more of (or less of) in the future? (besides buying more VT CDs of course ;) ).

Thanks for taking the time to do this for us again!

Warm Stranger
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Postby Vienna » Thu Feb 17, 2005 8:46 pm

Naturally my laptop would choose this week to go on the fritz. Hang on while I find another computer...

Warm Stranger
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Postby Erik » Thu Feb 17, 2005 10:58 pm

In response to Vienna's question about success:

I've actually been successful in achieving just about everything I have dreamed about in life. I guess one dream I still have is to buy a house on Sea Cliff overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Currently looking out the window into fog reminds me that it really wouldn't always be the most pleasant view in the world. My means of obtaining the funds to purchase said home would be to win the lottery, which is a gamble, not an attribute of my own success. I guess I'd be successful in winning said lottery if I had that kind of cash, but...

Not that many years ago, I wanted to meet the right person to spend the rest of my life with, I wanted to find a more comfortable place to live and I wanted someone to acknowledge me for something that I had done that was important to them. All of those things have already happened, and I'm extremely happy with the success I've had in those areas.

Strangely enough, the hobby of listening to music (live and recorded) was what brought about a lot of the success I've had in achieving those goals in life.

Which brings about an actual question for Vienna:

If you could see any artist in person (whether it be an author read from their work, a painter working on their latest work, a musician or musical group performing live, a television personality or actor, anyone from the magical world of entertainment) who would it be, and what setting would you like it to take place in?

Cool Stranger
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Postby aZnb0i » Thu Feb 17, 2005 11:45 pm

Ok, i know this question is sorta sad, but when will you answer my email, and will you check out my vid if you have time

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Postby andrew3 » Fri Feb 18, 2005 1:23 am

Hi -- excuse if I mess this up, I'm not a regular user of Forums.

OK: I live in a New York City apartment. I don't have an IPod, instead I download onto flash sticks and my Palm. Today I have Pet Sounds, the Rent soundtrack, Michael Hsu, and Vladamir Horowitz' final. And Warm Strangers, and your few downloads from the older music. I have a wife and a boy and a girl. I grew up in the midwest.

I don't recall how I found your music, but I do know your site led me to Odessa Chen and to Imaginasian Radio, which led me to other songwriters and to also encourage some artists I know to learn about IR for their own inspiration and exposure.

Most of the songs are compelling to me, although I don't understand the meaning behind the words. In other words, I get the emotion but not the story. Most frustrating to me is Homecoming (Walter's Song) because I like it so much.

Also, a small point but maybe not insignificant, as a man, I wouldn't shake my head to shake off a comforting fantasy.


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