'The Violin Player'
For most violinists, selling 10 thousand records is quite an
accomplishment. For 17-year-old Vanessa Mae, it's but a stepping
stone. The teenager has already sold nearly 1 million copies of an
album that fuses the classical and pop genres.
Seventeen-year-old Vanessa-Mae believes her violin
possesses a life of its own.
The million album-selling teenager doesn't lose sleep worrying
if her violin will suddenly become jealous of her success and
use the bow for something other than evoking music from the
strings. The viewpoint toward her instrument stems not from a
teenager's fanciful imagination but from a seasoned
professional's understanding and appreciation of her music.
"My acoustic violin was made in 1761 and the great thing
about that is that it had so many years of different people
playing it, it's got its own personality, character and sound,"
Vanessa-Mae says. "As an artist, you learn to grow with your
instrument and you learn to get on well with each other and
find out more about each other."
Vanessa-Mae, born in Singapore and raised in London, found
out about American institutions and pastimes last year. Her
visit to America included National Anthem performances at
Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park and an appearance on the
"Tonight Show." She has also performed in Times Square and
with London's Philharmonic Orchestra. This year, she plans to
tour America with her 14-piece band.
The musician began performing professionally when she was
11 years old. Her early work focused on traditional
interpretations of pieces by composers such as Tchaikovsky
and Beethoven. Her latest album, "The Violin Player," turns
toward a fusion of classical and pop music. Sales of the
record have climbed near the 1 million mark, a remarkable
accomplishment for an artist performing classical music.
"For me, there's a lot more scope and potential for exploring
and improvement, and really having fun exploring your musical
boundaries, if you did new things with your instrument rather
than sticking to the standard classical repertoire, which I'm
doing," Vanessa-Mae says. "At the moment, I'm having fun
delving back into the past, into classical works in history."
Vanessa-Mae's violin sound mixes with synthesized sound to
produce new takes of classical works. "Toccata and Fugue,"
the first single off her latest album, adapts Bach's composition
from the organ to the violin. According to the artist, many
people have asked her why she has stepped away from
serious classical music.
"What classifies a piece of music as serious or not serious all
depends on the emotions and ideas behind the composition of
that work," Vanessa-Mae says. "I don't put things in
categories really. When I perform or record I chose things
according to the mood I'm in."
The album features acoustic and electric violin playing, a
mixture that Vanessa-Mae prefers. "The electric violin has all
the potential of an electric guitar," she says. "You can use
distortion with it and it can come out sounding like a whole
host of instruments. When playing in front of thousands of
people, it's really built for that type of amplification."
During the performance she says she wants to be totally
uninhibited and entertain the audience. She prepares for her
concerts with a glass of water. However, she doesn't drink it
nor does she offer it to her violin.
"I pour water in front of me and walk straight over the water
and straight to the concert platform," Vanessa-Mae says.
"That's supposed to bring me good luck."
Her performances have inspired good luck for her audiences,
also. One man whose wife just died "had no will to live
anymore," Vanessa-Mae says. "He said after this concert he
realized what life was really about and there was something
worth living for again."
Another man had spent a great deal of time in the hospital and
his young son had dragged him to Vanessa-Mae's concert.
"He was very tired, but after the concert he was with everyone
else clapping, and cheering and dancing."
Vanessa-Mae's exploration of new styles led to her greatest
success to date: the album. "I was doing something that was
new and fresh," Vanessa-Mae says. "I knew I wanted to do it
for myself, but when people out there followed me and
embraced my new style of violin music, then that to me is a
"There's just so much to explore," she continues. "I think that
now people perceive the violin very much as a versatile
instrument. My aim is to promote the idea of the violin as an
instrument that is trendy and capable of anything."
By Rodney Tanaka - Daily Bruin Staff