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‘They would say, “So you’re going to be a concert pianist,” and I was saying, “Oh no, I’m not playing somebody else’s stuff for the rest of my life. I’m going to be the composer.” They said, “It’s not Beethoven and Bach and Amy Beach, you know.” I said, “Yeah, well, things need to change, gentlemen.” And I said that when I was seven.
On the day that Night of Hunters was released in Australia, this nice little interview by Michael Dwyer appeared in The Age, the largest newspaper in Melbourne. In it, Tori discusses her troubled relationship with The Peabody and her current relationship with classical music, in addition to fielding questions about Night of Hunters.
Thanks to Nick, Andrew and cjoelad for the link!
September 23, 2011
_Tori Amos’s first classical album tinkers with the genre’s greats and finds a voice for centuries of sidelined female composers. _
TORI Amos loves a challenge but she is ‘‘not into career assassination by media’‘. So when Alexander Buhr, distinguished musicologist for the Deutsche Grammophon label, tracked her down to suggest she write a 21st-century song cycle based on classical music themes, her first response was measured.
‘‘I looked at him,’‘ she says, ‘‘and I said, ‘Can I have a drink first?’‘’
Amos is no stranger to the unyielding rigours of the classical world. She won a scholarship to the prestigious Peabody Institute in Maryland as a girl, only to be asked to leave at age 11.
‘‘They would say, ‘So you’re going to be a concert pianist,’ and I was saying, ‘Oh no, I’m not playing somebody else’s stuff for the rest of my life. I’m going to be the composer.’ They said, ‘It’s not Beethoven and Bach and Amy Beach, you know.’ I said, ‘Yeah, well, things need to change, gentlemen.’ And I said that when I was seven.’‘
Fast forward 40 years and her application of classical form and technique to the rock-pop idiom has sold more than 12 million albums during two exhaustingly prolific decades.
The opportunity to make Night of Hunters, an album of her own variations on pieces by Bach, Scarlatti, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Debussy and other dead white males, was too good to refuse.
‘‘As a woman, what appeals to me is that female composers were never supported,’‘ Amos says.
‘‘It’s still pretty much a boys’ club in that world – and in the film-scoring world and in the [stage] musical world. I know this because I’ve been writing a musical [The Light Princess] for 5000 years now.’‘
She does not blame the composers, who, she claims in her endearingly eccentric way, she could feel hovering over her shoulder and egging her on as she fiddled with their work.
‘‘When you get into their music, they’re all quite radical in their way. There can be a snobbery when people are talking about classical music but I didn’t get snobbery from Schubert’s work or Schumann’s work or from Satie. It was just very … inspiring.’‘ The universal male-female imbalance drives the story of Night of Hunters. Amos plays a romantically disillusioned wife transported to a time of ancient Irish legend to witness the schism of ancestral male and female energies.
Adding a layer of conceptual profundity is the fact her shape-shifting nature-spirit guide, Annabelle, is sung by her 11-year-old daughter, Natashya Hawley. ‘‘Tash has been acting since she was six,’‘ Amos says. ‘‘I like the idea that a goddess comes in her maiden form through Tash. Annabelle has a perspective on the woman’s life that the woman needs to see and hasn’t been able to see.’‘
How the male classical establishment will see Night of Hunters is ‘‘a scary prospect’‘, Amos says. ‘‘I’ve approached this with a delicate ruthlessness. I don’t have to defend it; I think the work has to be able to defend itself.’‘
Night of Hunters is out today on Deutsche Grammophon through Universal.