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Night of Hunters intro by tori

Shattering Sea

variation on: Alkan, Prelude op. 31 no. 8, The Song of the Mad Woman on the Sea-Shore

Lyrics by Tori Amos

that is not my Blood on the bedroom floor
that is not the Glass that I threw before

He gets his power from tide and wave
but grains of sand are my domain

His tempest surged an angry flash
then through my arms formed a sea of glass

Shattering sea
closing my eyes
Shattering sea
closing my eyes
Shattering sea
closing my eyes

every line
every curve
every twist
every turn of every brutal word
every turn, every line
every twist, every turn
every curve of every brutal word

that is not my Blood on the bedroom floor
that is not the Glass that I threw before

Tori Quotes

Night of Hunters is a song cycle that begins with a shattering of a relationship as the sun begins to slowly disappear and dusk moves in. Alone in an old Georgian House on the river Bandon on the outskirts of Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland, Tori begins to piece together what has just happened in "Shattering Sea." The "him" in Tori's life we learn carries the force of tide and wave as she carries the force of fire. [Night of Hunters commentary - July 2011]

Night of Hunters is a song cycle and it takes place from dusk 'til dawn on the River Bandon, right outside Kinsale in Ireland. And the couple has just made the Atlantic crossing, from the New World to the Old World, in his sailboat. How they've ended up to be at this old Georgian house, we don't really know. But this is where, at sundown, a shattering of the relationship has taken place and he has left. I liked the idea of starting with the crisis, with no back story, not telling anybody anything at first. Because we've all been through something, whether it's death -- you get that phone call and all of a sudden life has changed. And we follow her now, in her psychological process, through the night. [NME - September 16, 2011]

You know, you walk a thin line as a writer. What you write about, you have to emotionally understand it. A lot of what the woman is going through in one night has taken me 20 years to go through, in some ways. [Spinner - September 20, 2011]

I was exploring all kinds of ways "in" and, knowing that I needed to pick a time-frame and that within that time-frame I could go into flash-backs, I thought that I had to bring us to what was important and that the listener really understood the shock that she was in and get a sense of the relationship -- the passionate side of it but also the brutality that was happening. [Planet Notion - September 22, 2011]

Might the romantically challenged pair in the story actually be she and her English-born husband, sound-engineer Mark Hawley? Are the couple doing OK these days?

Yes, we're fine (smile). Mark said, "Jesus, wife! The press will have us divorced after the first week's promo!" But the truth is I'm crazy about him. We've weathered a lot of storms and outside forces, but we've been together 16 years. [The Independent - September 23, 2011]

While I was traveling around on tour last year, the one thing that kept coming up over and over again from people was how quickly their lives were changing, how they woke up one morning, and they went to work, and then they realized that the business they were working for was closing down. And then they realized that they were having to move. The upheaval that life was bringing so many people, from country to country that I was visiting, made me think: if I'm going to talk about life in the twenty-first century, which the song cycle has to reflect -- some kind of reality of that time frame -- I felt that one of the key elements had to be that so much can happen in such a short amount of time.

So I decided to have this occur from sundown to sunup. The backstory is simply that this couple had made the crossing, the Atlantic crossing from the New World to the Old World, on a sailboat. And they have ended up in this old Georgian house on the River Bandon. You don't know for how long they've been there, but the boat is in the Kinsale Harbor. And the shattering of their relationship occurs. That's how the record starts. And she spends the rest of the night -- it's a psychological adventure for her -- piecing together what's happened. [Opera News - October 2011]

The music really guided me to the story. I had been reading The White Goddess by Robert Graves [1948], which became the bible for the mythology of this project. I began to realize as I was on tour that so many people were going through upheavals in their lives, there was this cataclysmic change that was happening to people in so many countries. I've never seen that happen before, and I've been touring for a long time. Song cycles always work when there's an intimate issue that's happening, as well as a global crisis -- and when I say global, that would look different in 1825 than it would in 2011. But that pattern is foundational for a song cycle.

I decided that we had to have the shattering of a relationship -- yet there's a much bigger crisis looming that she has to understand, and that understanding will help her in her own life. I thought the story needed to involve her having a transformation in a very short period of time, from dusk to dawn. But within that framework, you can go on these psychological journeys to places that are out of time. [M Music & Musicians - November 2011]

I was working on the story of this woman, and I knew that we had to start with, "That is not my blood on the bedroom floor." When you know that, the thing that drives is you is, well, that's not going to work with this composer, or that composer.

For that lyric, musicologist Alexander Buhr suggested a piece called "Song of the Madwoman on the Sea-Shore," Prelude Op. 31, No. 8, by Charles-Valentin Alkan, which Amos eventually made into the song "Shattering Sea." There's also a bit of Bartók in that song, particularly in the way the piano's left hand works against the vocal line and the string quartet. Amos, "a big Bartók fan," couldn't draw from that composer's works, because they're still under copyright.

But I guess I imposed, stylistically, a bit of him onto this piece, because the left hand doesn't really exist like that in the original piece. I thought that I needed to bring the madness to it, since it was called "Madwoman on the Sea-Shore." So in trying to harness what the original piece was carrying, and the madness that my woman was going through, the marriage seemed to work quite well. [The Globe and Mail - December 4, 2011]

Live Versions

"Shattering Sea"
October 7, 2011 - Milan, Italy

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