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The News Tribune (US)
Tacoma, Washington, newspaper
Friday, April 22, 2005
Mystic figures inspire Amos
by Ernest A. Jasmin; The News Tribune
Tori Amos collaborated with a Seattle-based former New York Times reporter on her new book, "Tori Amos: Piece by Piece." She performs songs from her new album, "The Beekeeper," tonight.
Tracing her creative process back to the Garden of Eden, poet-pianist Tori Amos outlines the muses behind her new book and album. Ask Tori Amos to deconstruct her work or her creative process, and she can pack a lot into a 10-minute interview.
Recently, the singer-songwriter – best known for piano-centric hits "Crucify," "Silent All These Years" and "God" – called from a tour bus rolling through Colorado, one that would eventually bring her to tonight's headlining gig at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.
She connected the dots between her newest album, "The Beekeeper," and "Tori Amos: Piece by Piece" ($18.98, Broadway Books), her literary collaboration with Experience Music Project curator Ann Powers.
Amos waxed philosophical on, among other things, feminism as it relates to Christian doctrine, the influence of mythological archetypes on her creative process and the sexual auras projected by certain musical instruments.
In short, weightier intellectual fare than you'd expect from, say, Fred Durst.
Amos, 41, said she saw an opportunity when Broadway Books showed interest in a biography.
"They don't need me to have a story about me," she said. "So when you're given an opportunity, you can either seize it or let people do what they want. And I've been really inspired by reading about people's process over the years, especially visual artists."
Amos, who lives in Cornwall, England, contacted Powers, a former New York Times writer based in Seattle.
They collaborated for two years and came up with a piece written largely in the form of dialogues between them. The book also includes comments from others who have worked with Amos.
Early in the book, Amos remarks, "The romantic myth of the artist says that you are the Source. I have no illusion about that. … I can access, but so can a librarian."
Asked about this notion, Amos took the ball and sprinted and juked her way through an obstacle course of loosely connected spiritual concepts.
"I was always taught by my grandfather, who was Eastern Cherokee, that we are containers," she began. "And it's really dependent upon your vessel and what you can hold."
Amos, a fan of anthropologist Joseph Campbell, began turning to mythological archetypes – Greek and Roman deities, like Aphrodite and Demeter – to find her muse.
"Sometimes as a creator you get caught up in who you become as a person," she said. "And I have to let my composer be free of those limitations, because who I am as a mother, a wife and a friend is not necessarily who I am as a composer. All of those people are in there, but there are other sides of myself that I don't necessarily bring out in play group."
Amos segued into the concepts behind her new disc.
"The whole crux of this work is to marry the sexual and the sacred, which has been circumcised from women in the Christian church," she said.
All around the world, she says, she has met woman who say, "I'm torn between this side of me who wants to be respected and a mom one day and this part of me that is just burning alive with desire. … 'The Beekeeper' was very much about integrating these energies."
As with her previous concept album, "Scarlet's Walk," the songs were composed with a central heroine in mind.
"Each one (song) is a relationship that this woman is having," Amos said. "And if you want to go to the back story, it really starts with original sensuality, where she goes to not God, but God's mother, Sofia.
"Sofia says you must eat of the forbidden fruit if you want to do anything useful, and look at your own relationships honestly. And once she eats of this forbidden fruit, the story takes place not in the garden of Original Sin, but the garden of Original Sin-suality. And she begins to look at each relationship."
What: Tori Amos in concert
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle
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