Vienna Teng performs at historic Thrasher
Singer-songwriter Vienna Teng will be performing at the historic Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake on Saturday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. Teng, a classically trained pianist (beginning at age five) incorporates folk, pop, classical piano, and a cappella into her music style, while including lyrics written with emotion, narrative, and personal history.
While pursuing a degree in computer science at Stanford University, Teng joined the Stanford Harmonics, a student-run a cappella group. She began recording her compositions at the studios in Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), intending to distribute her music on campus. Many of these recordings were eventually released in her debut album Waking Hour (2002). After graduating in 2000, Teng worked as a software engineer for Cisco Systems in San Jose, but she continued to write music and perform in her free time. In 2002, Teng signed with Virt Records and quit Cisco Systems to focus on her musical career.
“I’m kind of a late bloomer,” says Vienna Teng. Not that you’d guess from looking at the past few years. The songwriter, singer and pianist has released three critically acclaimed albums, landing her on three Billboard charts and in Amazon.com’s top ten. She regularly sells out theaters across the U.S. and Europe, fans travel hundreds of miles to catch a single show, and her opening sets for the likes of India.Arie, Joan Baez and Madeleine Peyroux end in standing ovations.
Mere months after quitting her job as a software engineer in 2002, she was being interviewed on NPR and performing on The Late Show with David Letterman, who declared that he’d listened to her entire debut album and that there was “not a dud” on it. Her brand of sophisticated, piano-driven pop has been gathering accolades ever since: “seductive and transcendent” (Amazon.com), “gorgeously conceived…accomplished yet understated” (Paste), “singular among her peers” (Variety).
So why the sense of a late start? “I’m talking about artistic maturity, not success,” Teng explains. “I feel like I’m just now settling into who I am in a lot of ways. Now I really go for the sounds I’m hearing in my head, and tackle the subjects I’ve really wanted to write about, when before I might have shied away and said, ‘I can’t do that kind of thing.’”
The newfound confidence shows. Her fourth album, Inland Territory (2009), is a tour de force musically and lyrically, a complex and deeply thoughtful work from an artist cut loose from limitations. Recorded over five months and in four cities, with instrumentation ranging from orchestral percussion to found-object loops to polyphonic choirs, it’s without question her most ambitious work yet. “It was a two-degrees-of-separation project,” says Teng. “Everyone I ever wanted to have play on a record of mine—I’d call them up and ask, and if they said yes, I’d go: ‘Great! Who else do you think should be part of this?’ So there was a kind of family feel to the whole thing. Complete with impossible scheduling,” she adds with a laugh. - Zoe Records
This project is supported in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. Accommodations provided by the Heidel House Resort & Spa.
Tickets for this performance are $19 and can be purchased online at www.thrasheroperahouse.com, at the Thrasher office, Knowledge Emporium, Green Lake Bank (Green Lake); Pick N’ Save, Ripon Drug (Ripon); Twister (Princeton) or by calling (920) 294-4279.