Grammy Nominated Artist, Composer, Producer Vivian Khor
Inspires the World with Talent, Passion & Contemporary Music Genius
By Suzanne Takowsky
When it comes to music, people follow their hearts and mood. And, so continues the ongoing success of Vivian Khor, whose gift for relating to people’s emotions have led her to the top of music charts worldwide. With titles such as Joy of Life, Paradise, Restful Moments, Tribute, I Can’t Wait To Be With You, Don’t Crumble Inside, Bliss and many others, Khor’s brilliance for melting technical achievement with heart felt blends of emotional and melodic sounds are showcased in all her unique new-age musical compositions.Whether listening to her music on the radio, being captivatedby the musical drawing in a movie, stepping into an elevator filtering reflective mood music, relaxing in a Five Star hotel spa, meditating in a yoga studio, maybe in yourhome trans fixed by an atmospheric commercial or playing a video game…chances are that Khor’s key-board genius and artistry is playing in the back ground. Khor’s gift formusic showed brightly as a child, and now with more than 20-plus years in the business, it’s apparent that the emotional charge she elicits from fans across the music genre, keep her a favorite in an ever changing industry that sees artists on top one minute and then never heard from again.
ST: Music has been a partof your live since childhood. Who inspired you to explore your music talent?
VK: My mother was an opera performer and vocal instructor. My music lessons began in her womb. She listened to great theatrical music such as Madame Butterfly, The Sound of Music, My FairLady, The King and I, Mary Poppins, South Pacific; she had an amazing collection of classical and film recordings, and she also had the scores and sheet music. Growing up, I had the chance to go into her collection and play and sight-read the pieces. My mom had a piano and even before I could walk, I was propping myself up on to the piano chair. I have pictures of these moments as my father was an avid photographer and took pictures of my growing up years and put them chronologically in albums. My father taught me to play a tune by ear when I was two. Then my parents decided to give me piano lessons when I was about 5-years old because they couldn’t get me away from the piano. Years later I studied piano as a performer with the Royal Academy of Music-London. My parents divorced and I went through a tumultuous time when my mother left home. My father begged her to come back; he had me beg her to come back, but it didn’t work out for them. I struggled with pain and started writing tunes. It helped me. I think back to those times as more of a passing phase. It wasn’t until I had my children that I started to write again. I wanted to leave a piece of “me” behind. My first album, Restful Moments was dedicated to them. It charted on the NAV top 100. I started to think I had something to offer from a musical stand point. Music was encouraged as a hobby, never a career. I went on to graduate as an Electrical Electronics Engineer and my career centered around being a high-tech engineer working for Seagate, Quantum, Borland, and writing software and firmware in a male dominated environment. After receiving great responses from fans on radio, I decided to explore my musical talents. It was the universe calling me. I was inspired by the calling, and felt a confirmation from God.
Khor’s demeanor is soft-spoken, understated and elegant. When speaking about her music, however, she switches gears and becomes animated, passionate and deliberate in the message she wants to send. She writes of love, pain and joy—emotions we all can relate to in our own lives. A seasoned electrical and sound engineer, Khor knows the business of music from the inside-out. Her intuitive spirit comes throughas an independent artist—who in an industry mostly dominatedby men has carefully crafted a steady path to greatand greater. She has performed solo, and also recorded live with a 70-piece orchestra as was the case when she collaborated with the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra for Tributeand Joy of Life. All eyes are on her and her extraordinarytalent. Just listening to her music raises me up.
ST: The music business still seems like a boys club… looking back who helped you, and who were your role models?
VK: I think my love for God, my children, my grandmotherand certainly, me wanting to do the best for myself led meto this point. I was my own mentor. I wasn’t as concern about what others thought about me, or my music. I knew that the melodies I created soothed my pain, and believed my music could touch the lives of others. Philippians 4:13 has been my yardstick. Most recently I worked with Michael Raphael producerfor Hanna Montana on a song and played with the National Symphonic Orchestra of Bulgarica on two instrumentals: Tribute and Joy of Life. But the majority of time, I write, record, mix and produce music myself—all in-house. Today, my favorite artists are Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Snow Patrol, U2, Nine Inch Nails, Coldplay and others. My next goal is to work with a producer who will take my music to the ultimate level for the songs I’ve written. I am looking to work with film composers such as Christopher Young; he is known for reaching out to artists still finding their way. Such a collaboration would be for the film music I’ve written; I am working to have my music orchestrated and cued to film scenes. There are many talented people in the industry producing and directing film. It is always inspiring to work with someone who believes in you and recognizes your talent. I just completed a 20-minute horror short film, The Perfect Girl. The experience was hard work, but very rewarding.
ST: Music translates into talent, but other elements are also needed to make a career enduring and successful.
VK : I think financial management is one of the keys to longevity, staying and embracing the changing music business/models, being open to all kinds of music , not being afraid to write and fail, and to learn about yourself and the world…be socially connected. I fight the temptation to “cave” myself in my studio, but I’ve learned that the idea of being physically present is very important in this day and age of the ip*s.
ST: When writing and producing what do you look for that will appeal to the masses and endure the test of time.
VK: The external devices (Korgs, Rolands, Emus ) that use to sit in my studio as rack-mounts of synth sounds are gone, and now replaced with large samples of sounds housed on terabyte hard drives. These sampled sounds (VSL, Native-Instruments, Spectrasonics) act as plug-ins and can be embedded in any sequencer. Music has evolved from a production stand point. Samples are close to the real thing and meant to emulate live players. The luxury of being able to hear how a finished piece will ultimately sound, helps me to write. As for songs that stand the test of time… I think of Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga; they use good lyrics, catchy phrases and memorable melodies. Lyrics that tell a story, make us cry, keep us upbeat and motivated….whatever the message it has to touch our souls. Whether it’s , Moon Rive r, Billy Jean , Poker Face, Yellow or Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer…in film, a terrific thematic score keeps you humming the tune for days. A good thematic score adds to the narrative, drama comedy of what the film was intended to project. Korngold, John Williams , Hans Zimmer, Allen Silvestri, Enio Marricone just to name a few are brilliant. When it comes to film scores, today it’s about writing textures—which are more than a melody; for example the Dark Knight. In the advent of technology, the production of music might have become easier, but the arranging ororchestration of the music still remains skilled . Original melody with a good hook is KING, and it wi ll always be that way .
Khor lives in southern California with her family where at home her role is very much a “mom”—it’s hard to believe when she closes the front door and heads off to work, the transition to chart-topping concert, television and film recording artist comes so easily. But it does.
As she tells us… her music isn’t just for others to enjoy; her love for writing and creating is what feeds her soul. It’s understandable when you think back to her childhood where at a very young age she was playing and learning to love the passion of such great composers as Bach, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy and Chopin. These days, she refers to the sentiment and romance of unforgettable movie themes including Nadia’s Theme, Love Story and Ice Castles, and views such well-know New Age composers such as Suzanne Ciani as her inspiration. Khor’s music brings all ages, genders, races, religions and cultures under her wing of inspiration.
ST: Besides your keyboard talent and ear for music, you’ve gone beyond artist to become an independent producer, composer and technical engineer. Has it been harder or easier to get your music where you want it to be?
VK: Easier in terms of handling the artistic side of things. In the beginning, it was difficult to wear all hats since a good understanding of composing, recording, mixing, arranging and producing is needed. But after walking this journey over and over again, it has become less uphill and more downhill. It works to my favor because when you understand the mechanics of music production, you are free to write without having to schedule studio time, or pay an engineer large amounts while experimenting and playing with different sounds. But the harder question I pose to myself now is not so much about saving from a monetary standpoint, but needing others because o f the time factor. There is only ONE of me, and if I can focus on the creative composing part and let others handle the production parts, it’s better in the long run. In the engineering field, working in a mostly male field, I know the boys appreciate it when you don’t cry over spilled milk, or try to figure things out by yourself. Although I can do most by myself, it’s easier to let others contribute with their expertise.
Describing Khor’s music, one thinks of an artist’s brush painting the perfect picture. Her heightened musical moods dictate orchestral sounds that drift from romantic, somber, and easy to high voltage, acoustic and hauntingly dramatic. To capture in full the essence of each melody, fans are privy to the occasionally flute, string section and vocal additions. Some say her musical platform favors subdued melancholic piano nostalgia of times gone-by, while others enjoy the innovative, off-beat textures offered by the flashes of electronic, beat enhancing synthesizers and the out of control keyboards of a woman who knows how to captivate an audience. Listen to Vivian Khor on iTunes and Amazon.
Log on, listen and most certainly…enjoy the journey.