Q&A with Vienna, February 2005

Chat and sip. Beret optional.

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Postby TDG » Sat Feb 19, 2005 9:32 pm

Greetings Vienna and fellow fans,

Whenever I visit a museum, I find the titles the artist gives to their work is often as interesting as the artwork itself. It sometimes (but not always) lends the viewer a hand in understanding the piece. It is in essence, the period at the end of the sentence. With that said...

What gives with the title 'The Atheist Christmas Carol'? The title surely has nothing to do with your own secular beliefs, correct? I think it's a beautiful song and is one of the my favorites on the disc.

I mentioned in an earlier post that 'Mission Street' is the song I frequent the most. You credited David Henry for *lots of* acoustic guitar editing on the song, of which you obviously played. Naturally, I have no idea just how much actual rework he had to do on the song. but I think he did a phenomenal job. I love the entire production and feel of the song. There's appears to be not a single note out of place. It's pure beauty when the song comes to a rest as you sing the beginning of the final chorus. I always rest myself and hold my breath for that moment. Great job one and all.

Thanks once again for the Q&A opportunity and for being a harbor to us all. May there be a guardian angel in wait for you before you turn each corner.

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Postby Vienna » Sun Feb 20, 2005 7:21 am

on my childhood education:

I had pretty much the best upbringing anyone could ask for. My family spent a lot of time together, which is impressive considering that both my mom and dad worked. They introduced us to everything they could think of, from national parks to symphonies, and encouraged any affinity or talent that we showed. But some things were not negotiable: each of us had to study art and music to some extent, play some sports, be proficient at writing and public speaking, and perform well in all subjects in school (Taiwanese education was quite rigorous, so my folks figured straight As in America should be a cakewalk for their kids). My dad has a particular love of math and physics, so we got a healthy dose of that on Saturday afternoons as well. The general philosophy, I think, was to develop an appreciation for all knowledge, and the skills to walk through the world with some confidence.

Because education was so important to my parents, they found a lot of great instructors and mentors for us. I had some really inspiring English teachers, speech & debate coaches, science teachers, history teachers. I felt especially close to my second piano teacher, who opened up all kinds of worlds to me both musically and in general. (As I think I mentioned in the first Q&A last May, he was the first to ask the simple question "Why not?" when I told him what I wanted to do with my life. I wonder if my folks are kicking themselves now for paying by the hour for that kind of advice.)

on starting to write music:

When I was six I wrote my first song very innocently, in that way kids do: I just thought, I'm gonna try that. There were notes on the page of my Beginning Classics book, which translated to the notes I was supposed to play on the piano, but who said I had to play what was on the page all the time? What if I decided for myself what order they should go in, for a change? I banged around until it sounded kind of nice, and then I did it a few more times until I could remember how it went. And there it was: Opus 1 No. 1.

on how Bro and Sis feel about all this:

They definitely find it amusing more than anything. Like a lot of my friends, they think it's cool but they also can't figure out what the big deal is. My brother was an RA his senior year in college and several of his residents were fans, so I think he got tired of passing on requests for autographed CDs. "Celebrity by proximity ain't all that," he said. And my sister's dance teacher choreographed Unwritten Letter #1 for one of the school's recitals, which was pretty surreal for both of us...

on major labels, and why I would/wouldn't work with one:

Let's see...I don't want to say anything I'll have to retract later in my career. ;)

Some clarification first: while I was completely independent, I didn't get any offers from major labels. I just wasn't putting myself out there enough for industry to notice (last I checked, A&R people don't go to coffeehouses in Silicon Valley much). Virt Records was a windfall in every sense. Michael Tarlowe heard Waking Hour tracks on the Internet, emailed me asking for a CD, and travelled to the Bay Area to see a show. It was a leap of faith to sign me. And it all took off from there.

I have turned down opportunities to work with certain people and organizations since then, but that's nothing special the music business. Sometimes people are just working toward different goals, and you have to make sure the people around you believe in the same things you do. I don't write instant chart-topper hits; I'm not looking for a fast track to fame and fortune; I don't want it to be about some manufactured exoticism ("check out the alluringly mysterious Asian girl!"). I'm just trying to make good music of a certain kind, to earn an audience honestly, and to be as real and classy about the whole thing as possible. The people who truly understand and support that idea are the people I'll work with -- major label or independent, industry bigwig or hardworking underdog. That's been the approach of many successful artists, and I'm trying to follow their example.

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Postby rahau » Sun Feb 20, 2005 10:22 am

A Doctor For Singers

Not a question, exactly. Just some possibly helpful info. It's something I emailed to you last year, but it may have been lost in the shuffle of the 1500 messages you had at the time. If so, it could be important enough to repeat here. Besides, it might prove useful to other singers, and friends of singers, who are taking part in this forum.

I'm sure all of us remember the time last year when you temporarily lost your voice. When I heard about it, I began to wonder if there was an ear, nose, and throat MD who specialised in the care of singers. About a month later, I had an appointment with an ENT, and asked him. Turns out, there is.

There is a place called the Vanderbilt Voice Center, at Vanderbilt U. in Nashville. The man who runs the place is Dr. Robert Ossoff. The man knows his business. Not only does he know how to treat the problems when they crop up ... he knows how to keep them from happening in the first place.

Best of all ... for several years, Ossoff's right-hand man was a young doctor named Mark Khoury. Last year, Khoury relocated to the Bay Area, and now has a practice out of UCSF. Right down the street.

As you mentioned, there is an awful lot riding on those slender cords in your throat. I think all of us would agree that your voice deserves nothing less than the very best care available.

Here is the VVC's web site:

<a href='http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/health/centers/voice.html' target='_blank'>http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/health/centers/voice.html</a>

Chances are, you already know all of this. But if not ... FYI.

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Postby andrew3 » Sun Feb 20, 2005 4:33 pm

andrew3 ... title to suggest to you for #3. If I may: "Walk, Don't Run."...
shawn ... The Ventures had a hit with a surf guitar instrumental that had that title ...
The_Man_in_Blue ... "Walk Don't Run" was also the title of one of Cary Grant's last films. ...

The universal unmanifest collective unconscious is a wonderous thing
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Postby Kay » Mon Feb 21, 2005 2:55 am

Vienna, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I have had such a great time reading all the responses posted to this thread.

Chiming in with one question of my own to end the week:

Did you enjoy high school?

If that's too personal, feel free to decline to answer.
Last edited by Kay on Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:09 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Calvin » Mon Feb 21, 2005 8:33 am

Sweet! Wasn't sure if I'd get to post before the Q&A session ended.

Couple random questions:
Is Vienna just your stage name or do all your friends call you Vienna now as well? I can imagine it'd be strange to go by both names. How do your friends or family introduce you to people?

Is there a typical 'workday' for you? I don't know any singer/songwriters (or any other type of artist for that matter). What do you guys do all day when you're not touring? Is there a lot of practicing and writing? Do you get to lounge around and wait for inspiration to strike or is there a lot of annoying administrative stuff to take care of?

On music I like:
I think good lyrics tend to make the song for me. I love it when I pick up something new each time I hear a song, and think "oh I didn't notice that before...how clever..." And if it's something I can identify with, all the better. On the other hand, I'm a huge fan of the 80's -- a time when one hit wonders ruled and you would remember 90% of a song's lyrics after hearing it once. Rock Me Amadeus anyone? :P

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Postby Vienna » Mon Feb 21, 2005 8:14 pm

If you could see any artist in person who would it be, and what setting would you like it to take place in?

Part of the romance of working in music is the backstage stuff: the rehearsals, the jam sessions, even troubleshooting that annoying buzz in the recording studio. So I'd love to be a fly on the wall while any of my musical heroes just works stuff out: Björk laying down a vocal track she ultimately won't use, Paul Simon running through a song for the first time with his band, Thom Yorke scratching out lyrics and playing spooky chords on some out-of-tune upright piano.

Who are your piano heroes?

Tori Amos has such a distinctive and compelling way of playing that I pretty much had to stop listening to her; otherwise I was never going to stop imitating her style, consciously or unconsciously. She's one of those women who pull you to their cycle, if you know what I mean.

Did you take voice lessons or is what we hear innate beauty?

I took voice lessons just long enough to learn that I wasn't doing it correctly. I don't really breathe from the diaphragm, and apparently there's some neck strain involved in my high notes. But my voice doesn't hurt at the end of a six-day run of shows and I'm always miked anyway, so I've gotten away with my errors so far.

Is Vienna just your stage name or do all your friends call you Vienna now as well? I can imagine it'd be strange to go by both names. How do your friends or family introduce you to people?

It's still a confusing process. At this point, people call me by whatever name I had when they met me. So family and friends from college and high school call me by my given name; people who met me on the road or through music friends call me Vienna. Everyone just gets used to the two-name thing eventually. It's sort of embarrassing to explain this pretension to people, but it's never stopped me from coming up with new monikers for myself. I also had an anonymous webjournal for a few years, so the whole blogging community knew me by yet another name...

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Postby davo » Fri Nov 04, 2005 11:29 am

"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? "

Hi. I've just joined this discussion, months late. I'm not sure how I'll fit in with your other fans. The very first music that I ever lost myself in was Pink Floyd, in their classic "The Wall." At the time I was young, in high school, and found that between the music itself, and the lyrics, I identified with it in a way that was internal, a part of my pyshic makeup.

Later, I came to realize how much music meant to me. It wasn't just something to "rock out to." The really good music could MOVE you, or make you THINK, or just EXPRESS what you have lived in your life, what you have EXPERIENCED.

I was up late one night, chatting with a close friend. A friend on the order of "Eric's Song", but I had never heard that yet.... In the other room, the Discovery Channel was on, and they played a snippet of "Between" at the end of an episode of Deadliest Catch. It sucked me in. I spent only a few minutes searching the net for the music used in that series, and I found Vienna. WOW. Eric's Song, Gravity, etc, SPOKE to me, my very closest friend. They spoke because Vienna's skill, experience, insight, put to words our feelings.

The melody of Between spoke to me - the chorus - it was flowing and emotional.

What do I look for? The expression of my feelings, the emotion of melody and lyrics together...
A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our trust selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are..."

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Postby Scot » Sat Nov 05, 2005 10:26 pm

davo wrote:What do I look for? The expression of my feelings, the emotion of melody and lyrics together...

Yup- I think I agree with that Davo. But first, welcome to the forum and
thanks for the great introduction.

Pink Floyd to Vienna - I actually understand. Both are music you can get
lost in - exploring the thoughts, feeling, emotions behind the words and

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

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Postby sue0812 » Tue Nov 08, 2005 4:34 pm

Hi,Vienna .
I came from your homeland----China.I am glad to join in there and look at your message by myself .There are too much words i want to tell you,But I think i can not express my pleasure because of my poor English.
The song of "green island serenade(绿岛小夜曲)“I Listened is very good . I hope you can try to sing some more chinese songs.Of course,your English songs are also to be pleasant to listen to. :D

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Postby Nummie » Tue Nov 08, 2005 5:22 pm

The United States and Taiwan are neither China :D

but forget about this remark, just being a wisenut

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Postby mommy of two » Tue Nov 08, 2005 5:50 pm

i am SO with you nummie. taiwan is definitely not china!

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Postby Ken » Sat Dec 17, 2005 6:51 am

It is not....

but Taiwan's full "name" is Taiwan R.O.C which stands for Republic of China (strange enough).

President Chan Shui Bien's party (pro independence) lost the district elections to the Kuomintang (pro China unification and all communists at heart) recently, which means all mayors and leaders have the majority lead. Thus, Ma Ying Jiou, former mayor of Taipei, and now head of the is headed for the next Presidential election. If he wins, Taiwan becoming part of China just got that much closer to reality....

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What an excellent question....

Postby onlyelise » Thu Jan 05, 2006 2:51 am

I have tried to explain this to people, but no one ever seems to understand. What I love best about a song is if I can listen to it and know that the person who is singing it is so passionate about what they're saying, that it sinks right into my toes. If I can't imagine the person singing it doing anything else for a living but saying those words, I'm touched. I've seen Vienna in concert a few times at Club Cafe in Pittsburgh, PA. and I can tell you, the experience was so raw (even the time she was sick and had Skylar from NYC sing), it was one of the most emotional things I've ever witnessed.

BTW, first time poster, long time listener! :P
There are only 4 questions of value in life, Don Octavio: What is sacred? Of What is the spirit made? What is worth Living for? and What is worth Dying for? The answer to each is the same: only Love! -Johnny Depp, Don Juan Demarco

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Postby Ginny » Wed Jan 11, 2006 3:55 pm

Welcome, onlyelise. It's good to have you here. :) ~Ginny
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