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Vienna Teng
Composer , Musician , Singer
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postcard from the studio, day 27

A friend told me about a book he once owned: one-page summaries of different jobs, including three intelligent questions you could ask someone in that line of work. The questions are surprisingly useful, he said, especially in small-talk situations. No bluffing required, no need to draw tenuous connections to your own experience. Just a bit of informed curiosity to set a good conversation in motion.One question you could ask any working musician is “Do you prefer working in the studio or playing live?” I think all musicians have a preference when it comes to studio vs. live, even if they enjoy both, and will be happy to share their reasons. It goes to the heart of why they play music, the aspects of the art they’re drawn to, their particular identity as a creative person.For me…I am, at heart, in the studio camp. There’s something thrilling about the process; it’s a kind of hunt, a patient stalking of elusive quarry. You lay out the most enticing environment possible, then wait for the Form of the song to come wandering through. It’s a deliberate, painstaking process, with none of the immediacy of live performance. But the ego tends to disappear more easily too. There’s a purity to nailing a take and having the engineers nod assent: all you get is the taciturn “I think that was it—one more for safety,” instead of the rush of applause and autograph lines. You know you’re doing it for the music and not to impress anybody. You just want the music to be right.**** In keeping with the pattern of the last few posts, lyrics: this song is that great rarity for me, the successful collaboration. Alex and I have tried to write together before, without much luck (both times in family homes over the holidays—we blamed the parental paparazzi). Ironic, maybe, that the one we finally finished is a song about limitations, living with a mere shadow of what used to or might have been. It was not an easy song to write, nor to record. Alex must have spent four solid days composing the string arrangement; we stayed up all night beforehand double-checking it. “It’s like Sudoku or something,” he would say, eyes bleary from LCD light. “There’s pretty much one correct solution, and each choice affects all choice going forward…” But I think we got it in the end. Nice puzzle-solving, Wong.Photos from the string sessions are on Eric Cheng’s site. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen: not only does he swim with sharks, he still rocks the cello. Thanks for joining us, Eric!)>AntebellumIn the fall,

we circle through the leaves

and talk about the little ones.

And we smile, but never say too much.

The moment always vanishing.

One by one the neighbors’ lights come on.

Our October day is almost gone.I know the border lines we drew between us

keep the weapons down,

keep the wounded safe;

I know our antebellum innocence

was never meant to see the light of our armistice day.In the spring,

we climbed the rolling hills

and talked about our budding plans.

And we smiled,

our faces like a mirror

showing us our secret sides.

But then the fights:

the sharp words splintering the night,

how I couldn’t be what you’d need…

but oh how I could make you bleed—I know the border lines we drew between us

keep the weapons down,

keep the wounded safe;

I know our antebellum innocence

was never meant to see the light of our armistice.

But how much would I give to have it back again?

How much did we lose

to live this way?You’ll go home—I’ll stay here—

seasons keep on marching—

I’ll stay here—you’ll go home

with only strangers watching—

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Location (City, Country)
Detroit
Member Since
April 30, 2007