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Tavis Smiley (US, TV)
September 20, 2011

Tori Amos interview and live performance


"Silent All These Years" / "Carry"


Tavis: Please welcome Tori Amos back to this program. The 10 time Grammy nominee is out with a new CD and about to embark on a world tour in support of the project. The disc is called Night of Hunters. Later on a special performance from Tori, but first now some of the video for the song "Carry."

Tavis: I was looking for your daughter in that video, I know she's in there, um, in the particular clip we didn't see her. But I remember talking about this with you some years ago when you were here. Your daughter is like a part of everything you do almost.

Tori: She is. She is and she was developing this character Annabelle with me. She would say to me, in her British accent, she'd say I don't know why grown ups don't solve their problems before it's too late. And we thought ok, let's make Annabelle the sort of sage being, but with the voice of a child.

Tavis: Wow, how much, to your point now, how much of your music has to do with the relationship you have with your daughter?

Tori: Well, I think she's a huge muse, and um, she teaches me so much, we're very close. My nieces and nephews have a lot to do, my niece is also on this record. And it's a very close family in that way. I guess my husband is a muse as well, I'm singing a bit about him.

Tavis: This is, I'm trying to find the right way to phrase this, this is not so much a change of style for you, would you accept reinvention?

Tori: I'll accept that. I think, um, because I came from the classical tradition, that's been in my work, sorta part of the seeds, but um, these are variations on classical themes so the seeds this time are from some of the iconic masters from classical music.

Tavis: When you say a variation on classical themes, that means what exactly? For those purists who are watching right now.

Tori: That means I messed with the masters. I did some messin'.

Tavis: You know for some folk you're not supposed to do that. Even if you're Tori Amos you ain't supposed to mess with the masters.

Tori: Well, somebody needed to do it one day. And you know women, female composers, in the classical tradition have not been treated so well. So I thought, if someone's going to mess with the masters, it needs to be a redhead.

Tavis: You said two things now, I need to go back and have you unpack them. When you say that women have not been treated so well, in this genre, you mean by that what?

Tori: Well, they're great composers, and yet they weren't given opportunities. And it's a boys club still. It is. The pop world has really opened it's doors, there's no question about it. In roads have been made, great strides since the 60's, and many women have been working towards this in R&B and in jazz and in pop music. Um, rock as well of course. But in classical music, musical theater, I'm talking about as composers, I'm not talking about as first chair violin or cello. Because they're happy for women to be the performers of men's ideas. But when the woman is the architect, stop, no.

Tavis: The easy answer, I don't mean to be dismissive by saying the easy answer, the easy answer it may be the right answer first and foremost, would be patriarchy, would be sexism. What I'm trying to dig a little deeper into is why you think artistically, there's a push on compositions by women, push back that is?

Tori: Well, these are good, questions.

Tavis: Resistance.

Tori: These are good questions Tavis. I don't know if they think that we don't have the brain power. Composition is about sonic architecture, it's very different than performing and um, I really don't know. Also in the film scoring world it's been very much a boys club. And some of those boys are my good friends. But um, I do think that it was time in the 21st century. Deutsche Grammophon approached me, and they said, you know, we've been really thinking about this. And we know you've been working on this musical so you better understand a bit about narrative. So, what about doing a 21st century song cycle? Based on classical themes. And I said, let me catch my breath cause that's a, you know you can really get that wrong, and want to go be a hobbit and hide under rock if you get it wrong.

Tavis: How much of a risk was it, is it for you, do you think?

Tori: Well, I mean if we go back a year ago, over a year ago, I thought this through, it's a huge risk, cause I have, I've accomplished some things in my world. And yet I started really thinking about the idea of story. And messing with the masters. And I've loved many of them. Debussy, Schubert, Schumann, I grew up playing them as a little girl, so they've been close to me.

Tavis: When you decide you want to, as you would say, mess with the masters, how do you approach this?

Tori: With a delicate ruthlessness.

Tavis: Wow, a delicate ruthlessness. You gonna give me some more on that?

Tori: Well, uh, I said to them one of the main conditions is, reams and reams of material. I need endless amounts of classical music. I understood that every waking hour, um, before recording, it would be completely about designing and building. Um, and it was really about targeting these themes, these original themes that I felt could be expanded upon. And don't think that I think the originals aren't perfect in their own way. They're perfect in their own way, but I had to conceptualize how I was going to approach it. And then, they were the seed, the men, they were the egg, so I needed to penetrate, into the past and take back the seed into the 21st century and tell the story. And then together, um, as my husband said, what ever you're doing with these dead guys, as long as they're dead do whatever you want. And I said baby, I'm taking it all the way.

Tavis: Well, I'm going to make room for some of this delicate ruthlessness right about now and let the talented read head do her own thing. The new project from Tori Amos is called Night of Hunters and we are honored to have a special performance from Tori Amos so you can judge for yourself what you think of what she has done. We think it's pretty good and that's why she is on the program. Tori, good to have you on, good to see you again.

Tori: Thank you Tavis.

[transcribed by Christine Sleeman]

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