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Unrepentant Geraldines

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16 Shades of Blue

Lyrics by Tori Amos

are you telling me it's over disintegrating lost and there's nothing I can do
before you drop another verbal bomb, can I arm myself
with Cézanne's 16 shades of blue

as my heart is slowly ripping into pieces
disconnecting from the circuits of my mind
"you'll get over it" you say "in time"
in time?
if the clocks are black absorbing everything but
a remembering how we made it that
clocks are black

you say "get over it if 50 is the new black, hooray this could be your lucky day"
but my cables they are surging almost over loading as you disengage

could your heart be slowly ripping into pieces
disconnecting from the circuits of your mind
"we'll get over it" you say "in time"
in time?
if the clocks are black absorbing everything but
a remembering how we made it that
clocks are black

"that's it you're done.
You've screwed up your life"
before you've begun
there are those who say
I am now too old to play

see over there at 33 she fears she'll lose her job
because they hear the ticking of her clock
at only 15 I said 15, they say her future's bleak
she should have started this at 3

as her heart is slowly ripping into pieces
disconnecting from the circuits of her mind
"she'll get over it" you say "in time"
in time? stop Father Time
if the clocks are black absorbing everything but
a remembering how we made it that
how our clocks are black

before you drop another verbal bomb
can I arm myself
with Cézanne's 16 shades of blue


Paul Cézanne, The Black Marble Clock (1869-1871)


Tori Quotes

I didn't get Cézanne for the longest time, and I don't know if I get it now -- I get it in my way. But, um, when people talk about art sometimes it can be fascinating to me, but I don't pretend I know half of what they're talking about, just because -- if I don't hear it, then it doesn't make sense to me. And then when I do hear it, I'm not listening to them anyway because I don't understand them, so... if you hear the rhythms and the counter, um, maybe contrapuntal lines happening, when you are looking at something, then I begin to know that at least I understand a feeling that the artist was invoking. I might not understand it again like certain art lovers do. And it's important for me to say that because somebody came up to me and just said "Oh, so are you becoming a painter now?" And you think, are you kidding? I'm not that delusional. I have no ability to paint. And as a sonic artist, I go to the visual artist in order to not get trapped in a structure. When I'm listening to other musical artists, I have to be very careful and very aware that although motivated, I'm not taking that structure exactly. And so that's why I go to other mediums sometimes, to really get, um, to take a pilgrimage, whether it's at an exhibition somewhere in a, in a different country, or whether it's picking up books along the way and them taking them as we travel.

So "16 Shades" could only come once, I guess, I was battling myself with the idea of turning fifty. A few things had to align for me to get it, um, and looking at "The Black [Marble] Clock" by Cézanne, and reading about how he approached his work, with quotes from all kinds of writers -- from Hemingway to Rilke -- and because of the writers and their perception, I started to understand it. And Rilke talking about that Cézanne would have sixteen shades of blue sometimes on his palette. So therefore, it all came together. I turned a page, looked at "The Black Clock," no hands, battling my own issues with age -- so battling it that I've been hearing from teenagers, twentysomethings, and thirtysomethings that I...you know, middle-age women don't have the copyright on battling age, so move over, sister. It's like, oh, get off the cross. Um, having heard all that, it just all came together and while I was supposed to be working on "Weatherman" at Christmas, "16 Shades" was written in a couple days, like that, after years and years and years and years of getting books by Cézanne and frustrating a lot of people, finally it came together within forty-eight hours. [Spotify commentary - 2014]

It was Rilke who said that Cézanne would sometimes paint with 16 shades of blue. That started me thinking about a painting I had seen called "The Black Clock." Which then expanded the idea of age and what is the definition of age for different people at different times in your life. [NDR.de - June 1, 2014]


Live Versions

"16 Shades of Blue"
May 17, 2014 - Paris, France




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