Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Tori and me.

I’m a Doubting Thomas. Because I don’t believe a whole lot in things like meterology and physics, I tend to give more credence to things like astrology than I should. I keep thinking that the science guys we have today are the same as the science guys that used to say the world was flat. With new data, they changed their story.

I’m a Gemini. You might think that means “two-faced” or “multitasking,” but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m unfailingly straightforward and tactless, and intensely focused on one thing at a time. I flit from one thing to another, but I get very involved with whatever I’m involved with. No half measures.

Geminis tend to have problems making decisions, and I do have that. It’s not that I can’t find a course of action, it’s that I can’t see why one is much better than another. Once I pick one, it’s Katy-bar-the-door, since I am Sagitarrius rising (a fire sign) with Mars in the first house (indicative of fiery daily life).

Where does this all lead? I am fascinated with duality. Left brain/right brain, analytical/emotional, male/female, Democrat/Republican. Neil Gaiman has talked about writing stories that are male or female, having one viewpoint or another, regardless of the actual gender of the protagonist.

Generally speaking, I am male, analytical, left-brained, and Democrat. That’s how I approach most things. As a Gemini, I encourage and embrace data from the Other Side, so I try to listen to my emotions and feelings as well. I am fascinated, for example, at the way the Republicans manipulate hot-button issues to get votes, when their actions and words are patently stupid and poorly described. And it works, too.

I have always liked Tori Amos songs. I once got a speeding ticket while “Cornflake Girl” was on the radio, and I don’t get speeding tickets during songs I don’t like. After exploring a bit more, I found the more average-sounding Tori songs, mostly with her singing over her piano playing. I couldn’t really get into it.

I read a review of her new album, “The Beekeeper.” They said she was actually gettting a little funky and even using some Hammond organ on a couple songs. Sounded cool to me. I downloaded some songs and liked them, and then bought the CD.

This is me trying to broaden my horizons. I’m exploring some music that’s not part of my usual playlist. I’m sure Tori is worth the trouble, because she and Neil Gaiman are good friends, and if Neil liked Hitler, I’d be a Nazi.

I have trouble getting into Tori’s stuff, and there are three parts to this for me. First, the lyrics are poetic and painterly, more right brained than left. I don’t have problems with non-objective lyrics like Jon Anderson of Yes writes, but Tori is telling stories, she’s just using other ways to do it, like an impressionist painting a bowl of flowers. There’s still a bowl of flowers there. Jon Anderson makes abstracts, like Mondrian, where there’s nothing objective. I know Tori has flowers and I want to connect the dots.

Secondly, instrumentally and musically, her stuff is really good. I love the way she plays, and the arrangements and accompaniments are terrific. This is distracting, in a lovely way, when you’re trying to puzzle out some flowers in the words.

Thirdly, Tori has a dazzling voice and an unusual vocal style. It’s all about vowels for her, and she glides from sound to sound: a becomes i becomes o all in the same word. Which again is lovely, but befuddling to Left Brained Me. She drags out vowel sounds and twists them, knitting them together with tiny bits of consonants. She never forgets the consonants. On “Goodbye to Pisces,” she drags the word “Pisces” through a roller coaster of vowel sounds and then adds the tiniest, barely aspirated s on the end.

“The Beekeeper” comes with a DVD with Tori talking about some of the songs on the album. I’m sure most artists don’t like being asked about the subjects of songs, but she does give some hints. When she speaks, she glides from context to context just like she’s taking a vowel sound out for a spin, moving easily from religion to mysticism to automobiles.

This is bewildering to me. Honest to God, I actually had to stop the DVD for a minute to stop my head from spinning. Lovely, dazzling, and bewildering. I decided that one of the differences between men and women (left brain/right brain, analytical/emotional) is that women multitask all the time and men are more focused. This is why men and women have trouble communicating. The man just wants one simple answer first and the woman is still considering a dozen different aspects of the question.

I looked up some more information about Tori, because that’s what Intensely Interested Guy does. I didn’t know much about her. I thought she was a Brit, but she’s from North Carolina originally. I listened to the song she wrote about her rape, and it chilled me to the bone. I still get chills thinking about it.

The talk with Tori on the DVD was most helpful, but I still can’t make the connection. I thought today that I should read through the lyrics as if reading a poem to get the words in my head, and then listen to her sing them, and just relax and let it all happen. There is a process here that I’m looking to complete. I’m trying to crack the seam on the wall between my left brain and right brain and let things intermingle.

That’s where I am now, still on the journey. Instead of random iPod tunes when I drive to work, I’m listening to Tori and trying to let it all happen. I guess you can’t really “try to let it all happen,” can you? I don’t even have words for what I’m doing.

I noticed today that Tori's CD goes the other way. A CD case is not square, it's slightly longer in one dimension. Every other CD I own is landscape format, meaning that the long dimension is horizontal. But not "The Beekeeper." It goes the other way. Did I mention that the CD came with a seed packet? A packet of real wildflower seeds? This woman is determined to drive me mad.

As Grace Slick once said, “I like things I don’t understand.”


Batonga said...

I was clicking links tonight and stumbled on your blog... reading your like of Neil Gaiman, a phase I am going through and also your like of duality, just thought I would mention, I was talking at work the other day about duality, specificaly a book I was given while studying music called, The Inner game of Tennis, my instructor at the time, told me to read the book and everytime "Tennis" was written just substitue in "music".. book mainly deals with Self 1 vs. Self 2... intresting read none the less, duality, right brain, left brain, self 1 self 2 kind of stuff.

Kathy said...

If you have a DVD of her music, try turning on the subtitles. On music DVDs, that usually gives you the lyrics.

When I was teaching voice, I taught a girl who only wanted to sing Tori Amos. Taught me a bunch of songs I would never have sought out otherwise, and I did think they were good.

Shocho said...

batonga: I'll look for that book. Sounds fascinating. Neil can be kind of obscure at times, but I get him.

Kathy: I think that might help, with words and music at the same time. Although I think that might be cheating. Anyway, thanks!