Vienna Teng (born Cynthia Yih Shih in 1978) is a San Francisco Bay Area singer/songwriter who works in a style she likes to call chamber-folk. A classically trained pianist, she left a job at Cisco Systems to write and record music full-time. She has taken to touring in the past few years, often accompanied by professional percussionist Alex Wong, who co-produced Inland Territory with her.Discography:
Asian and Nerdy: Alludes to model minority stereotypes in Grandmother Song ("All the good boys, baby, they're in grad school.") Teng herself attended Stanford as an undergrad and worked for Cisco as a software engineer before seriously pursuing music.
Since going back to grad school and being inspired by an album full of songs about things like climate change and fluctuating urban populations, she's straight-up admitted to being "dorky" when explaining her song inspirations in concert.
Audience Participation Song: Enough to Go By was supposed to be, before Vienna realized that audiences do not have eidetic memories. Soon Love Soon is her more successful attempt at this.
Grandmother Song is her most recent example, since Vienna tends to let the audience clap the beat for her. She also invites them to hoot, holler, and make other raucous interjections.
"The Breaking Light" has become a subtler example of this, with the audience joining in on the background vocal part at the climax of the song.
Bawdy Song: Subverted in 1BR/1BA, in that the narrator is none too happy about the bawdiness.
Berlin Wall: St Stephen's Cross is set the night of the fall.
Blue and Orange Morality: Watershed paints Nature as an omnipotent being who doesn't seem to care what the insignificant humans do with her world.
Breather Episode: Inverted - Passage, one of Vienna's eeriest and saddest songs, is placed between the heartwarming lullaby Anna Rose and the soft, pleasant Atheist Christmas Carol (which, despite what its title might suggest, is not an Author Tract).
Call Back: in Landsailor, "But thereís a storm outside your door/ and Iím a child no more" might remind people of Lullaby for a Stormy Night.
Intercourse with You: "Momentum". Vienna noted this at a concert once after sharing with the audience that a publication reviewing her first album had described it as "Music to get you into a woman's pants."
Isn't It Ironic?: Narrowly Averted when Vienna convinced a friend not to use Between as the first dance at a wedding.
Lyrical Dissonance: Shasta. It sounds like such a cheerful, upbeat, fun song, until you realize it's about an abortion.
Also see Between. Beautiful waltz that a friend of Vienna's was planning to use at her wedding until Vienna pointed out the song's meaning.
Mood Whiplash: The last three songs of Warm Strangers go from heartwarming, to eerie and depressing, and back to heartwarming.
New Sound Album: from "chamber-folk" and "girl-with-piano" on her first two albums, Dreaming Through The Noise incorporated strong jazz influences. Inland Territory kept a few of them and mixed in some electronica as well. Aims is essentially a complete re-invention, with a much more studio sound and heavy pop influence.
Rule of Three: Between is described as having been written in a very clever stage of her life, being a waltz in three verses with three vocal parts, the melody coming between the two harmony lines.
Self-Backing Vocalist: Done via live looping during the Inland Territory era, most notably "The Last Snowfall".
Used to extremely creepy effect in The Hymn of Acxiom.
Also taken to extremes on Copenhagen (Let Me Go). By the end of the song, she's singing three different vocal parts in a round.
Self-Deprecation: Generally not evident in her songs, but in live shows, when talking about how she came up with the ideas for songs, she will quite frequently poke fun at herself for writing about dorky or pretentious subjects, or playfully suggest that she "ripped off" an artist she had been listening to at the time. This can cause a bit of Mood Whiplash if the song being introduced is a sad or serious one.
Spiritual Successor: Watershed explores Pontchartrain's theme from a much more inhuman perspective.
Stage Names: "Vienna" after the city's illustrious musical history, and "Teng" to reflect her Chinese heritage
Stalker with a Crush: On the live album, Vienna personifies "The Tower" as a finicky woman who will only agree to be part of the setlist when Alex is part of the gig, because "The Tower has a crush on Alex".
Alex: "I don't know, she sounds kinda creepy to me. I've dated girls like The Tower before."
Survival Mantra: Two in "Radio": It's just the radio, darling, just the radio and We are not some Third World country... this is not some Third World country...