Interview: 10 Questions for Tori Amos | New music reviews, news & interviews
Interview: 10 Questions for Tori Amos
Bewitching songwriter celebrates 20 years of recording with a new orchestral compilation
The past few years have seen the anniversary reissue, or concert tour in which classic albums are performed in their entirety, become something of a standard. Not so for Tori Amos, who this year is celebrating two decades since the US release of her debut solo album Little Earthquakes. To mark the occasion, she is instead collaborating with the Netherlands’ renowned Metropole Orchestra to rework and recreate some of her best-loved songs in an orchestral setting.
The resulting album, Gold Dust, will be released next month and accompanied by a limited run of dates with the orchestra, including one at the Royal Albert Hall. It is the songwriter’s second recording for Deutsche Grammophon, the classical label which released the critically-acclaimed Night of Hunters last year, and is a staggering work - particularly for those of us who found that particular song-cycle a little too opaque. Gold Dust features 14 new recordings spanning Amos’ entire career, from “Winter” and “Silent All These Years” from her debut to a triumphant reworking of “Star of Wonder” from the 2009 seasonal album Midwinter Graces. In some cases the reworkings are organic, building on existing string arrangements (John Philip Shenale, who arranged the orchestral parts, has been collaborating with Amos since 1994’s Under the Pink) while others undergo more dramatic transformations.
Amos spoke to theartsdesk ahead of the release, discussing how she selected songs for inclusion in the project and her changing relationship with her "girls" over time.
LIS FERLA: Night of Hunters was your first "classical" album. What attracted you to this approach?
TORI AMOS: Well, they approached me. Dr Alexander Buhr, a German musicologist with the label, had the idea that I do variations on classical themes. In 2010, while I was composing Night of Hunters, I was preparing to play with the Metropole Orchestra and during rehearsals there was an obvious chemistry that was happening - so we decided that we should collaborate and create an album together. That became Gold Dust.
How did you choose the songs that would be reworked for inclusion on the album? Was there anything you had to leave off, or maybe changed your mind about?
Some of the songs were already built to handle a big arrangement. It was a balance: some songs that were originally designed for strings or orchestra, such as “Winter”, “Silent All These Years” and “Flying Dutchman”, received a subtle makeover while there were others - like “Precious Things” - that wanted a big makeover. That song was open and game for something really different, as was “Flavor”.
Watch the video for "Flavor" from Gold Dust
Do you plan to do the same with other songs in the future?
There will be some songs explored and added on the tour - songs that didn’t quite make the record, or where the arrangements hadn’t been built yet. So the live show might have some new songs for the orchestra to play that we will work up in rehearsals in a few weeks. I don’t really know if there will be anything more formal. I think this is a specific moment in time, because this is acknowledging the journey of the past 20 years - 21 in the UK - since Little Earthquakes came out.
How does it feel to be performing these songs - your "girls", as you call them - that you wrote in your 20s? Have they changed in meaning over time?
The thing is, they take on an aura of their own as other people’s stories become a part of their history. They’ve been traveling around the world for a while now, and other people have had experiences with them that are all a part of who the song has become - her lineage. So when I play them they are transforming all the time, because of the stories people tell me about their relationship with the songs.
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