For the German audience of the Berlin-Website of Lexikus Publishing, this interview with Dr. Carsten Schmidt took place. (See German Version here.)

C.S.: Dear Vienna Teng, it is a great delight to have the opportunity to talk to you. Even if you tour a lot in the USA this year, you never seem far away. Because, when I look at the internet, I see that you are very active with Facebook and modern ways of communication, regarding news of your band and tour dates. I also witnessed that you immediately checked news in a concert break backstage. In what way would you describe the community that supports you on the internet?

Vienna Teng: I love that my life in music and on the internet has connected me with so many thoughtful, knowledgeable people. It’s allowed me to continue my education, in a sense. I can pose a question on Facebook or Twitter about any topic I’m interested in, and inevitably someone responds with useful information. It’s also great to receive song requests before a show, and to read the stories behind the requests. I’m always fascinated by the lives of people who listen to my music, and how a certain song came to be important to them.

C.S.: The current news and happenings in Japan cannot leave us ignorant and questions a lot of the way of our lives. You collected a donation sum at a concert lately to help the people suffering from the tsunami catastrophe. In how far do you want to speak up to what is happening and do you maybe plan to sing about it?

Vienna Teng: The idea of collecting donations came from Alex Wong, whom I perform with frequently. His strong sense of compassion is very inspiring. We had also written a song called “The Breaking Light” a few weeks before the tsunami struck Japan, and he suggested that we record the song live and make it available online for download, to collect additional donations. It’s still online. To date, I believe it’s raised over $5,000 USD in donations.)
We live in a crowded, complex, fast-moving world, and I think a lot about how vulnerable each of us can suddenly become, whether through natural forces or financial markets or failures in government. But I’m not always sure that music, particularly a live performance, is the right place for me to speak about it in an opinionated way. It’s good that we can use music to support those who are suffering. As for making big changes in the way we live, so that we avoid future catastrophes—I’m still exploring what role music should play in that conversation.

C.S.: Many of your songs cover political and social issues. Your range of content and musical variety is yet great. In the song “City Hall” for instance you deal with tolerance towards homosexual marriage. What issues do bother, concern or excite you this year?

Vienna Teng: I’m currently educating myself on climate change: the science, politics, and cultural aspects of this enormous challenge that all of humanity must confront together. When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, our actions are often far removed from their consequences, and many of the consequences are hard to predict–but they are dire. So what can we do about this? More specifically, what can one songwriter do to contribute to positive efforts? For now, I’m focusing on becoming as knowledgeable as I can, so when I do choose to speak up, I’ll be a credible advocate for the solutions I support. I’ve been glad to learn that Germany is the world’s leader in solar power installations, and that other European countries like Norway and Sweden are also pioneering ways to build a climate-resilient society.

Vienna TengC.S.: The YouTube generation and the quick reaction on this medium enables that fans can often see your latest performances very quick (in part) on the internet. But you also chose to record classical music videos that, surely in the case of the beautiful video “Gravity” (which has been watched more than 300,000 times), and the Taiwanese classical Ludao Xiaoyequ - “Green Island” - which melodically sounds nearly like Enya´s world music - gained you a lot of new fans and probably brought a new aesthetic serious depth to you when being portrayed as an artist. What does the medium video mean to you, and do you want to record new ones?

Vienna Teng: A “composed” music video is a chance to tell new stories with a song. I’ve only had the chance to make two videos, but I would love to make more. Even better, I hope someday to make a collaborative video with my fans. I’ve seen a few artists and bands do this in different, creative ways, and it’s such a wonderful expression of how music connects people.

C.S.: Now a question to your “craft”, in the broadest sense. At a concert you gave in Marburg, I saw a big man crying who later told me he could not even understand English. In Berlin at the “Babylon” I saw two people crying and smiling at the same time, when you sang a Chinese good night song at the end of your performance. Now, I doubt that the two people could understand Chinese, and hence the language does not seem to play the vital role. What feelings, what emotions would you like to transport towards the audience?

Vienna Teng: One of the most beautiful, powerful aspects of music is its ability to transcend language. Sometimes the sound of words, combined with the sound of voices and instruments, conveys meaning that goes beyond the literal message in the lyrics, and people respond in unexpected ways. So I try not to be very specific in what I intend the audience to feel; I just want the songs to reach each person’s heart in some way.

C.S.: Now to your newest things to come up. In August 2011, the German audience can see you three times in Cologne, Kassel and at the Rheingau Musikfestival. Are there any other dates for the German audience to bear in mind?

Vienna Teng: We’ll be performing in Hannover on 11 August, and because the Cologne date on 10 August has sold out, there will be an additional performance on 13 August at Altes Pfandhaus. It’s always a joy for us to perform in Germany—the more shows the better!

C.S.: Thanks a lot for the opportunity to talk and all the best to you this year, xie xie!
Bu ke-chi! (You’re welcome!)

questions: Dr. Carsten Schmidt