From an outside perspective, 24 year old singer, songwriter and pianist Vienna
Teng fits comfortably into the Asian-American stereotype. She began taking piano
lessons at age 5, studying classical composers like Bach and Chopin. A straight-A
student in high school, she had her choice of Ivy League colleges before eventually
deciding on Stanford University. After a two-year stint on the pre-med track,
she switched her major to Computer Science. By all appearances, her existence
is that of the quintessential brainy Asian-American girl.
But there's another story below the surface. Far from being pressured into
studying music, Vienna asked for piano lessons on her own. While she delved
fully into classical works, she was drawn more to the act of improvisation,
and in expressing the ideas that were emerging in her own imagination. She wrote
her first song at age 6, and had an album's worth of instrumentals composed
by age 16. As if the challenges of collegiate life weren't enough, she released
a 4-song EP at Stanford and finished recording the tracks for her first full-length
album before she graduated. A classic overachiever, perhaps, but Vienna can
hardly be relegated to any mere stereotype.
As with her life, Vienna Teng's music defies any attempt at simplistic classification.
Her full-length debut, Waking Hour, reveals a unique intensity in her melodies,
brilliant turns of phrase in her lyrics, and a natural instinct for song craftsmanship
that is difficult to comprehend given her young age. Her compositions range
from simple piano ballads featuring pristine vocals to multi-layered productions
with lush landscapes. Waking Hour features explorations into not just pop, folk
and rock, but also new age and world beat stylings, reflecting Vienna's admission
to being something of a "music geek." The album takes listeners on
a ride through the haunting, the ethereal, and the comforting. Most of all,
her songs reveal a keen understanding of the magic that lies beneath the surface
of the everyday world and how to share that hidden beauty with others through
As a result of her captivating live performances, Vienna has earned increasing
recognition from the press and a dedicated fan base throughout the Bay Area.
Strong sales of Waking Hour at gigs and online, where the album achieved best-seller
status at CD Baby, combined with remarkable word of mouth and critical acclaim,
helped attract the interest of independent label Virt Records, which signed
Vienna in May of 2002. Vienna recently returned to the studio, this time with
highly regarded producer David Henry (Cowboy Junkies, REM, Josh Rouse, Yo La
Tengo), as Virt looks to further expand her audience with its plans to release
a new version of Waking Hour, featuring new arrangements and remixes of selected
tracks and new artwork. Guest musicians include Will Kimbrough (Kim Richey)
and Craig Wright (Steve Earle).