Q&A with Vienna, May 2004

Chat and sip. Beret optional.

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Postby wolding » Sat May 22, 2004 6:38 pm

Hello Vienna,
I would also like to thank you so much for opening the forum to Q & A. Such a nice - and brave - thing to do.
A long time ago, in your scrap book archive, I read that you were thinking about getting into computer-based music. I assume that meant virtual instruments and effects as well as recording? Did you ever persue this interest? Since you are able to work in REAL studios, perhaps the interest has been satisfied?

Along similar lines, what instruments do you use at home to play and write on?
Thanks again,

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Postby majorbytes » Sun May 23, 2004 7:06 pm

Hi Vienna,
I am currently a student of Computer Science at the University of Montana in Missoula. Came up here all the way from Houston. Anyways. I have been playing, writing and singing for quite awhile. I work in the ITO Dept. on Campus and run my own Web Dev Company.
I have yet to get the courage to do the music thing full time. I admire your jump into the music world from a tech world. I know that took a lot of hard work, courage and determination.

I happened upon your music through an Internet Radio Station while I was looking for ideas for songs. I was amazed. Plain simple journals of life and a strong clear voice to carry them with. Keep up the good work and I hope to see you at the Grammy’s. I hope to make that jump one day myself but I am still in the hard work stage.

The question I have is……
When did you finally make the choice to do music full time and how did that make you feel?

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Postby Grace » Sun May 23, 2004 7:26 pm

Hi Vienna,
I got to thinking about my questions to you after I posted them. I realized later that they were pretty unfair questions to ask you since religon and politics can be very touchy issues. So, thank you for answering them in an incredibly fair and honest way.

I appreciate, like all the rest of your fans, this opportunity to chat with you and to ask you questions. I've enjoyed reading your answers.

While I agree with you that as fans we know only the music part of you and that you are more 3 dimensional than that, I do strongly believe that your thoughtfulness, patience, honesty and wisedom (you are very wise for a *younger* person, no offense there) really shines thru in your music. This is one of the reasons why I love your music so far.

You've talked about some of the challenges you've faced as you delve into this twisty path of a professional musician but it seems to me that you have your head and heart on straight on your shoulders (is that the right way to say it?) and I hope you keep making beautiful music.

Lots of luck and peace to you as you travel on this twisting and uncetain path.


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Postby Vienna » Sun May 23, 2004 9:24 pm

Tackling the easy ones first, as usual...

on why there's no video footage available on this site:
Purely a bandwidth thing. We have enough trouble with the MP3s, so hosting video clips woud be a nightmare.

on whether I'm actually a "helluva chef":
I forgot to mention in my bio that I also spent a year at a culinary academy... ;) I don't get to cook much, and when I do it's pretty elementary stuff. My one semi-impressive skill is flipping crêpes. It's all in the wrist.

I watched Battle Watermelon on Iron Chef once. That was really something.

on having my song used in figure skating:
That would be very cool. There are a few modern dance groups (and even a high school song-girl squad or two) that have used my music in their routines, and figure skating seems like an even better match. "Between," maybe, or "My Medea." And if a choreographer could come up with a skating program to "Harbor," with all its meter changes, I would be deeply impressed.

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Postby sheeba » Sun May 23, 2004 11:41 pm

Hello Vienna,

What are your top 10 albums of all time? Top 10 songs of all time? And who are your top 10 artists of all time? In order of most favorite if possible. Thanks.

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Postby TonyT » Mon May 24, 2004 9:58 am

I happened to be at the Eugene, OR concert. I drove down from Portland for it. The show went really well. It was in this "hip" coffehouse and the place was packed. The performance space (aka stage) had pretty good acoustics. The most memorable moment was when the whole audience took part in a sing-a-long. Audience participation, who would have thought, nice touch Vienna!

Thanks Vienna for coming up to the Pacific NW again!


Me :)
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Postby Me :) » Mon May 24, 2004 2:41 pm

Okay, okay, so after weeks of neurotic thinking (definitely delving into that chaotic section of my brain... :P) , I finally got one! And it's almost the end of May... oops. I always said that I'm the queen of procrastination. Enough of my ramble (I don't want to bored you too much :D ), here it goes:

Vienna, I have a question about Shasta. This is going to be hard to ask because I don't know the musical terminology, but there is a part of Shasta, the piano part (yeah... that really narrows it down, doesn't it? :blink: ), that reminds me very much of Tori Amos' Cooling. The question is (I guess, if it makes sense) did you intentionally incorporate the sound of Cooling into the song Shasta? Second question, did my question make any sense? Third question, do you at least grasp what it is that I'm trying to ask?

PS- As for figure skating, I'm still trying to find a way to bombard the producers of Stars on Ice with suggestions to get something choregraphed for Harbor. Couldn't hurt, could it? :ph34r: :P

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Postby laru » Tue May 25, 2004 1:05 am

Well me:), thats a very good idea! You should write (email) your ideas to Stars on Ice for sure!

VT fans, if anyone else wants to promote her songs to be used with Stars on Ice and Canadian Stars on Ice, they actually have a web site,(www.starsonice.com) where they actually ask their memebers what they would like to see for the next SOI (2005). (you may have to register...its free...if you want to post.

I assume they are starting fresh every year, so they're looking for new music, ideas, etc. If anyone has the know-how, they could even include a clip of the music ( if its legal and all, lol) for them to listen to.

Me:), you could specifically suggest your choreography too! :)

If Vienna's music were to be used, the recognition of her name would be soooo big, I swear!

So if anyone wants to email Stars on Ice, that would be a great idea. Oh yeah,I just remembered,not only is SOI on the internet, and performing in 60 cities across USA and 10 cities across Canada (I'm guessing on those numbers, lol) SOI is also on North American TV, so the publicity Vienna would get is huuuuuge! lol

So yeah, go for it! We'll have Vienna's name in every household and her cd's in every player! lol

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Postby asTarael » Tue May 25, 2004 2:32 am

I asked this down on the general section of the board and a very intelligent individual suggested I ask here: I'm filling in roommate forms for next year (I'm going to be a freshman at Stanford), and it asks for "The Type of Music I Prefer" followed by "My Favorite Musical Artists Are...". For the latter, I've put down Vienna Teng, but I don't know how to classify her for the former. I've run across this problem before, and usually I end up saying something like, "It's sort of folky, but with lots of piano, and really beautiful," and then people give me funny looks... So my question (after all that!) for Vienna is simply how would you classify your own music? Probably easier said than done, but any guidance would help.
Thanks a million!

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Postby Vienna » Tue May 25, 2004 2:47 am

Here's today's technique: answering by theme.

on touring:

Any favorite places in Boston? Any "stories from the road" about experiences in Boston - good or bad?
I've wandered around the Back Bay area, also Harvard Square area in Cambridge, both interesting places. I couldn't get over all the brickbrickbrick...California is more about wood and stucco. The T and the city's compact size delighted me when I first visited, since so much of the country is car-dependent these days. Speaking of cars, I HATE Boston traffic. Big Dig detours inspire heights of fury in me I didn't know existed. ;)

Any memorable moments of Oregon in general?
We always have a good time in Eugene. We usually drive up from San Francisco, so two times out of three we've gotten to see a play at OSF in Ashland on the way. Oregon is a cool, green place, much more sparsely populated than my home state, with the culture to match in most places. I have half a mind to move there someday and see if I can stand the rain.

Have you ever thought about performing overseas like Japan, Taiwan, or Hong Kong?
I would love to know if you would ever think of coming down here to Australia to promote your music.

For now we're focusing on the U.S., which keeps me plenty busy, but I'd love to make a trip over to Asia sometime in the next few years. Europe, too, and Australia. Not in the very near term, though.

What is your favourite thing about touring? What is the least favourite thing about touring?
The best parts of touring are the performing — doing it one night after another until you really get the hang of it, and being in front of a difference audience every evening — and the traveling, if you get to stop and absorb a bit of the place. On a good tour I get to collect stories, images, new information. The worst thing about touring is the risk factor: while there's opportunity for screwups everywhere, there's very little room for error in a touring musician's schedule. Getting sick is disastrous. Even getting tired is a crisis. Airplane mechanical problems, lost luggage, misunderstood car reservations, late packages; nothing waits for you on the road and you can't wait for anything either. So you pray for nothing to go awry. Something always does, but then you try to handle it with a sense of humor.

Are you lonely?
Surprisingly, much less so than when I was programming in a cubicle. For me it has a lot to do with how purposeful my life feels. It's lonely to feel like you're not getting anywhere, when you feel like your priorities are different from those of the people around you. If my heart isn't in it, it's a lonely endeavor. Touring is draining on the body, and the constant movement makes my life feel vaguely chaotic all the time — but it's seldom lonely for long. The people I work with have the same goals as I do; my fans are with me; the musicians are supportive of me and each other. We're in this together, in some sense, and we believe in the same thing. Somehow it's enough to make solitude an easy burden.

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Postby Jack » Tue May 25, 2004 3:48 am

Vienna, allow me to throw you into the following scenario; you have been asked to appear on a prime time televison variety show and perform three of your own works. At the last minute though, due to time constraints, etc., you are informed that you may only perform one of your songs...which song would it be and why? :)
I told her I ain't so sure about this place<br>it's hard to play a gig in this town and keep a straight face---Shawn Mullins

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Postby Vienna » Tue May 25, 2004 5:04 am

on songwriting, various topics:

Will you ever release Boy at the Piano?
Boy At the Piano is in the same boat as Signal Fire: having passed up (or been passed up for) two albums now, their future's uncertain. Boy has never fit with any of the other songs — even more of an outsider than Unwritten Letter #1, which was pretty borderline — but it's still evolving, and who knows, maybe on album #3 or even #4 he'll have a place in things. I doubt it, though. A cameo on a live album is more likely.

There is a part of Shasta, the piano part (yeah... that really narrows it down, doesn't it? ), that reminds me very much of Tori Amos' Cooling. The question is (I guess, if it makes sense) did you intentionally incorporate the sound of Cooling into the song Shasta?
You know...I just sat down and tried playing the intros of Cooling and Shasta back to back. I had never noticed that. There's a simultaneous "huh, interesting" and "dammit!" reaction whenever this happens. I would like to claim that it's a clever reference to Cooling, evoking some kind of end-of-relationship-with-consequences theme. But no, it's pure accident. Not very impressive, but it's the truth. Someone also remarked recently that the high piano motif in Harbor sounds oddly like the motif in Vanessa Carlton's A Thousand Miles. That would have been amusing if it were deliberate: "a thousand miles...'sail your sea'...going away, coming back...get it?"

Speaking of Harbor...

Is life on the road making its way into your creative process? Am I guessing correctly that Harbor is a glimpse into this influence?
I don't know what inspiration I'll draw from for the next album. I write very slowly ("glacial" is a word Sarah McLachlan used once to describe her output rate, and I can relate to that). There is a fragment sitting on my mental workdesk right now called "Interstate Highway," but who knows if it'll see daylight. It's too early to tell what bent this next collection of songs will have. And, of course, there's also the possibility that I'll never write anything worth hearing again. Songwriters get that fear every now and then.

Of all the music you have written which one(s) are you the most proud of? If by some strange quirk that's not your favourite then what would that be?
I've found that off the two albums I've put out, Gravity and Harbor are my favorites to perform live. The melodic lines and the piano parts are fun to play, and somehow it's easy to lock into the emotional space they require. I don't know that I'm proudest of them as songs, per se. I tend to be pleased with certain lines of lyrics, or certain chord changes. In my own mind, presently I'm only getting it 100% right a few seconds at a time.

What instruments do you use at home to play and write on?
Ask me this in a year, when I'm actually at home for a while and have instruments at my disposal. :) For now, oddly enough, I do most of my songwriting while driving; it develops in my head, with whatever instruments seem most fitting. If I hear a vocal line I sing it out loud to remember it.

Do you create detailed imagery of the fictional people in your songs, sort of like watching a movie in your head, and is it the peripheral perceptions of these little "films" that you write about or is the "peripheral vision" you speak of more of an emotional periphery? Or is your creative technique something else altogether?
How in-depth are the personas in your songs? I know of fiction writers who develop entire backgrounds and histories for the characters they create- education, family relationships, favorite foods and colors, pet peeves etc. Do you focus much on "fleshing out" the characters peopling your songs?

I'm not a Method songwriter, if that's what you mean. Walter of Homecoming developed over time, and to this day I don't know much about him. He's a "warm stranger" to me as much as anyone else: someone I instantly connected with, and felt like I knew somehow, yet he checked out of that motel the next morning and drove off toward Utah and I haven't seen him since. Sometimes I'll suddenly remember a detail about that night — he stepped out of the diner and tugged at his jeans for a moment, glanced down like he'd just realized what a potbelly he'd gotten over the years. His truck had a large grey moth spattered tragically on the front grille. But I don't know what he did during recess in fifth grade, or if he had any other girlfriends before he met Carrie. I think you can make a compelling sketch portrait without necessarily coloring it all in. But who knows...maybe someday we'll cross paths again and he'll tell me some more stories.

The concept of working in peripheral vision is both a detail thing and an emotional thing. I can look straight at a character and write about the constellation of details around her — the orange peel and styrofoam cups in Shasta, for example, or the mother and sister and lover in Passage — and somehow I'm better able to get at who this person is, better than if I'd started with "here is what she looks like, here is how she feels." Or I look at something more abstract, and the metaphors for it begin to form on the outskirts. It always gets interesting with the latter, because this stuff floats up from the subconscious and sometimes I don't necessarily see how they're related to the topic. A little girl curled up in the corner of a stone labyrinth? Feather moon, scarlet sky, living clouds? The imagery that comes from this direction is a bit more primordial. But if it feels right, it goes in the song. I figure out what I mean later.

And here's where I start to feel self-conscious, because there's nothing worse than an author over-analyzing a process or a work that isn't that impressive to begin with. ;)

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Postby Ang Mo » Tue May 25, 2004 5:19 am

Thank you for answering all of my questions. I was tickled to see the other three answered. I have one more I wish to ask, maybe broken into two questions.

You mentioned that you thought about being an actress. My question is, what movie would you have liked to have appeared in, or what movie would you like to have the opportunity to do the soundtrack for?
Merely hypothetical questions, but I am curious.
--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 laru » Tue May 25, 2004 4:52 pm

Well...I did it! (I was so nervous, I didn't know what to say, but I wanted to say SOMEthing!!! lol)

(Vienna,and admin, if you want to move this post, or start a fresh one on promoting Vienna, go right ahead)

I posted about Vienna and Harbor ( MYYYY personal favorite! lol ;) at Stars On Ice (www.starsonice.com) under "Music Selections for SOI 2004/05.

Like I said in an earlier post, emailing is easy (and free,lol) and registering is free. When you get the SOI homepage, its under "Cool Stuff", then click on "Bulletin Boards".

If anyone agrees with me, go right ahead and give your 2 cents for Vienna's song(s). Like I say, theres a lot of figure skating fans there, so more will hear about Vienna whether SOI decide to use her song or not. (SOI always go by a "theme" so it depends if her song will fit in with their theme. But who knows,maybe a skater will hear her, and decide they want to skate their program to her music... ;)

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Postby bfogler » Tue May 25, 2004 7:00 pm

She hates Boston traffic!!! I LOVE it!!! Everyone hates Boston traffic!!!!

Even Bostonians hate the Big Dig.... thankfully, it's finally winding down, and it does seem like it will have some positive benefits, but boy, has it been disruptive while being built!!!

The only good thing about Boston traffic is that if you learn to drive here, as I did, driving anywhere else in the country seems simple by comparison. For example, we made a family trip to the Bay area a few years ago - stayed in San Jose area, but visited relatives all through the area - many of them in downtown San Fransisco. Had one good city map - and never got lost, never was late to an event, never had to call for directions. The relatives were all amazed.... All this before GPS systems were around....

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