Sylvia Tosun :: The Venus Concert
exclusive musical discoveries interview and video review
With album and EP releases dating back to 2001, few will have had the opportunity to see the stunning Sylvia Tosun perform her material live. Although the New York City-based artist has performed as far away as on the Great Wall in China, gigs outside the NYC metropolitan area are rare. Sylvia's new DVD, The Venus Concert, presents an incredible live performance filmed in Manhattan with selections chosen from her prior recordings and two all-new songs.
Sylvia's collaboration with Emil Adler and Julie Flanders (October Project) continues into The Venus Concert. The DVD was recorded for HD broadcast and shows Sylvia and her band in top form. Visual effects add texture and mood to the recording. We spoke with Sylvia as production concluded in an exclusive interview. Read the first review of the DVD below. The recording will be aired on MTV HD in April 2007. We will publish release details here when obtained.
NYC songstress Sylvia Tosun has exceeded all expectations with her new DVD, The Venus Concert produced by Sea to Sun Productions. Both video and audio are extremely well produced and certainly highlight Sylvia's beautiful voice and dynamic stage presence. For those not lucky enough to see her perform live, the DVD exquisitely shows off her remarkable talents. The DVD includes material from Sylvia's prior CD releases and stunning new songs as well.
The DVD begins with a narrative by Thaddeus Motyka of the mythological story of Venus and transcends the audience to another world. Sylvia appears on stage with her captivating "Jump In." Her lush tones come through loud and clear backed by wonderful keyboards, drums, flute, violin and guitar. "All This Time" follows and has a catchy, upbeat melody and a beautiful instrumental accompaniment. Richness and clarity flows throughout this song and it has a strong, sensual quality. The rock rhythm urges one to move with the infectious beat. Sylvia's pure tones and emotive style create a joyful aura.
"Sleepless" exudes an exotic touch complemented by Sylvia's sensual delivery both musically and pictorally. The rich melody has a mysterious, Middle Eastern feel that crescendos into a more frenetic beat. Her crystalline vocals tantalize the senses. The sensitive and down tempo "Your Girl" enables Sylvia to mesmerize her audience, casting a spell with her storytelling. There is an underlying energy that emerges with her soaring tones. The spellbinding "Sanctuary" contains a dance rhythm feel that is upbeat. Joined with her powerful and sometimes breathy vocals, Sylvia continues the mystique in her lush, expansive style. Her dance movements and gyrations help whirl the audience into the rhythmic ambience.
A gentle mood inducing piano instrumental interlude prefaces "Perfect." It is a dreamy melody that emphasizes the perfection and clarity in Sylvia's gorgeous voice. The simplicity of pure voice and tender piano accompaniment makes this piece a sure standout. From the mellow and soothing tones of "Perfect," Sylvia explodes into "Head Over Heels." This breathy, take-charge melody has pulsing rhythms and synchronized instrumentals that punctuate layers of vocals displaying Sylvia's best assets. Her extensive range and clarity are simply flawless.
"A Day Like Any Other" is a ballad with sensitive lyrics and a lovely, floating melody. There is a poignancy to her emotive singing that is enchanting and hypnotic. She segues into the evocative "Moving Away." The velvet tones continue to flourish in this stunning blend of well articulated vocals, lyrics and melody. There is a preciseness and striking quality to Sylvia's masterful voice. Completing the set is the psychedelic and brand new "SuperNatural." It is a colorful, captivating tune that has a spellbinding quality. Sylvia's stunning voice is entrancing and this harmonious number is a wonderful conclusion to this marvelous production.
The blend of voice and instrument has been perfected in this DVD. The band members therefore deserve special recognition. In addition to Sylvia Tosun, the lineup includes Jon Margulies (guitars/backing Vocals), Allison Cornell (violin/backing Vocals), Pete Drungle (keyboards/synths), Alex Alexander (percussion) and Erik Lawrence (flute). All of the material performed was written in collaboration with Emil Adler and Julie Flanders. Also involved in the production were Emmy Award winning mixer, Sue Pelino (Madonna, Pink, The Eagles), editor Eric Singer (VH1 Divas, American Music Awards, Dave Matthews) and art director Eric Woodland who produced all the fly-in videos that added to the visual excitement of the final project.
The pictorials strewn throughout this DVD depict the multi-talented kaliedoscope and range of the exquisite Sylvia Tosun. The The Venus Concert has a complex, colorful, and shifting pattern that highlights her amazing voice, unbounding energy and her enticing stagecraft. Effects ranging from the wind machine to the exciting graphics make this a superior production. One cannot help being captivated by her crystalline lead supported by layers of backing harmonies as well as rich arrangements in each of the songs. This concert certainly is a special event with diverse and talented musicians participating--all accompanied by Sylvia's sensual silhouette moving about the stage. The Venus Concert clearly illustrates this artist's depth and the vast range of her stunning musical talent.
Musical Discoveries: What was your inspiration behind the theme of this DVD?
Sylvia Tosun: I have always enjoyed reading mythology over the years, particularly about gods and goddesses. I believe that mythology is a mirror that shows us who we are through archetype and metaphor. Venus is intriguing to me because she embodies so much. She has set the precedent for the human heart. Hers is a story of inspiration that demonstrates possibility. She was unlikely candidate for survival, and an underdog who became a role model for love, proving that "it" conquers all. But, I do love Venus and I feel her story is one of self healing through the support of the Universe. The water from which she arose is a symbol from where life derives and dreams are born. She is a lesson to us all that if we take important risks for our own evolution, while letting go of outcomes and aiming our hearts truly, magical things can and will happen. I know I'm sounding like a political speech right now--and wasn't there a cartoon called "Underdog"?
I have always felt inspired by strong female figures and fearless survivors of any kind. I was raised by a mother and grandmother who were extremely independent. I remember when my Mom needed to build a sidewalk around our house so instead of hiring a company who could do it for her, she bought a "how to" book and had me help her lay out the wooden frame and mix the cement with water buckets from our well and we did it together.
Tell us more about what you learned on your mythological exploration.
While at the studio of my vocal teacher, Thaddeus Motyka, I came across many books on mythology I had not yet seen. He let me borrow a few of them specifically on Venus and I learned several renditions of her story.
There was a furious battle between her father, the god Uranus, and her 'sort of' brother, Titan Kronos, resulting in Kronos having castrated his father, letting his remains fall into the sea, which became fertilized and formed the life of Venus the Goddess of Love.
Now, I have interpreted this mythological fairytale image as a child coming from a broken home, cast aside; a product of a dysfunctional environment. And maybe because there was so much hatred between Kronos and Uranus, the only thing left from such hateful passion was all that hidden and powerful love that Venus now embodies. She is an example of a miracle born from no sex, yet becoming the mother to both sexes. I believe her story is a true reflection to many people whose circumstances call for something profound or extreme to change their lives for the better.
The text, along with Boticelli's painting, formed my vision of her and why I feel, symbolically, she is important.
Please talk more about what you see in the Boticelli painting.
If you'll notice in the painting, you'll see that wind-gods, Zephyr and Chloris, were flying as a two-fold entity, and were the magical angels that wafted the fully formed, surviving, Venus to shore. When she arrived at the shore, there was a woman—one of the lavishly dressed season goddesses, "the Hours"--who was ready to dress her with a purple robe, welcoming her and guiding her into the world.
I have some personal reflections with regard to this. I believe that Zephyr and Chloris are my songwriting collaborators, Emil Adler and Julie Flanders and I believe that my Manager, Liz Derringer, is the Hour. There is so much symbolism here that I would think no matter who learns the story of Venus, they will find a way to relate it to themselves. I mean, isn't it true that many of us feel as though we are the underdog in our jobs, in our relationships, in life, and sometimes, in our art?
So, when you ask me what my inspiration is behind the theme of the DVD, I would have to say, it is the people around me who help transcend me from being an unlikely candidate for survival being the unconventional artist that I am, into a fearless force to be reckoned with. My collaborators, my friends, my family, my manager, my music, my art, my life, my strength and my love and compassion have become "my shell."
What was the recording process like for this production?
Having no idea what I was in for, I listened quite a bit to the professionals around me. I was trying to hold my place vocally, and pay close attention to my in-ear monitors where I ended up hearing everything from the drum levels, to feedback, to what we were having for lunch; plus a phone call from the wife of one of the grips talking about when he would make it home. Seriously, there is quite a lot of detail work that goes into a production like this: Baker Lee from SIR ran the in-house sound and Producer, Elliot Mazer recorded everything from up behind the stage. There were many assistants, machines and cables with a lot of people saying "shhhhhh".
How did you choose all of the musicians who participated?
They are my friends and band-mates. For instance, Allison Cornell, who plays violin and viola, has been on every album I have ever recorded and she has been working with me live, for many years. I consider her one of my closest friends and I feel I have grown as a musician because of her involvement so when I was planning to shoot this video, of course I wanted her to be there, but that's a whole other story. My goodness! I cannot believe she actually made it to the shoot because just a week prior, she fell off her horse in California and broke her ribs! The doctor would not let her fly so she and her partner, Laura, drove all the way across the country just to be there! You can't imagine how deeply I appreciate that.
My percussionist, Alex Alexander, gave up a gig with Tina Turner just to be there as well. Pete Drungle, my pianist and sometimes musical director, has been playing with me for years now and I think he is amazing. He does a really cool piano solo before the song "Perfect" that I think viewers may enjoy. Carlos Davis, my friend and fashion stylist, had a great time dressing Pete up in sparkles, a vest and tight pants. Jon Margulies, my guitarist, actually pitched in quite a bit and spent long hours getting us prepared to perform. He did a lot of organizing the musical arrangements we were going to play so that our rehearsal would be smoother--yes, we only had one rehearsal before the concert. And finally, Erik Lawrence, who was recommended by Allison, came all the way down from Vermont just to play the Chinese flute. What a treat it was to have these musicians with me!
Were there other songs that you wanted on this DVD that were excluded or just didn't fit?
I had a lot to choose from because Julie's lyrics are always so rich and transcendent and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. I chose the songs that I felt told the best story: Jump In [birth], All this Time [self-discovery], Sleepless [journey], Your Girl [father figure], Sanctuary [passion], Perfect [acceptance], Head Over Heels [lust], A Day Like Any Other [reflection], Moving Away [mother figure], Supernatural [healer]. Each song depicts the vulnerability of the heart and the strength of love--for Venus’ life as well as our own.
How did you make the final choices of what did appear on the DVD?
My wonderful Editor, Eric Singer, combined with the incredible video/graphic work of Art Director Eric Woodland and "Audiogenic" Music Mixer Sue Pelino, pulled together images and sounds that would blend and result into the final songs. I sat with Eric Singer in the post production facility, Analog Digital International tweaking the shots and finalizing the show. I have the great fortune of working with very talented people that made this DVD richer.
Was there a certain type of message that you were trying to convey throughout?
Yes. My father always said, "if it is imaginable, it is possible.", so that is what I hope to convey as an artist, along with "trust the Universe" and "love and gratitude are strength."
How will you be promoting the DVD?
On my website and in retail outlets to be announced this spring.
What can you tell us about the concert being aired on television?
The concert will be aired on MTV's new High Definition channel, MHD, this April. From there, we will share any other placements or air dates on my website.
What were your feelings about being videoed? Does it affect how you prepare before you go onstage?
Someone once said, "A light dusting of powder covers a multitude of sins." In the case of HD, good make-up is important because you get to see everything. Everyone gets a little nervous on video, I think, but I knew I was documenting some wonderful moments in my life, as well as the lives of those around me. When the video comes out, check out the behind the scenes segments. Pete Slack and Godfather Productions has shot multiple hours of video that will be in-depth and very entertaining.
Were you performing a live show that was videoed, or what was the actual circumstance?
I was performing in front of a live audience at an original Vaudevillian Theater called, Show on 42nd Street, in Manhattan, and the whole thing was videoed.
What material are you working on currently? Are there more songs expected in collaboration with Julie Flanders and Emil Adler?
Yes, Julie, Emil and I have another full length studio album in the works. I should be heading into the studio in the next month or so to begin preliminary recordings.
What plans do you have for 2007?
More shows, more music, more productions and more fun with great friends!
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