Great brass moments: growling in Tori Amos

Tori Amos’ ‘Happy Phantom’, with its child-like bouncing rhythm and playful nature, has a fantastic moment in the chorus when the brass loom out of the dark, growling with menace (38” in the clip here).

More than meets the ear: Tori Amos

The music dances along as it bops its head from side to side with a smile which belies the nature of the lyrics; but the brass remind us occasionally that there’s a dark sub-text to the music, as there often is with Tori Amos. Hers is the kind of music that requires attentive listening: there’s much to fathom, which rewards repeated visits.

Considering that it was released on her solo debut album, Little Earthquakes, back in 1992, it’s a wonderful sign of things to come: poetic lyrics, full of subtle references and meaning you have to work to appreciate fully, married to a sure musical sense that often treads at a tangential angle to the actual content of the words, just to make the listener work that little more. Amos’ music is that rare thing, an art that assumes its listeners are intelligent; it doesn’t pander to cliché or hand you flat images on a plate; there’s more to the songs than meets the ear.

And the final trick of not finishing in the tonic, in the key in which the piece began, is deftly handled: the piece seems to turn the corner and disappear: the innocent song of the child suddenly stops short. It’s a wonderful trick, one that wrong-foots the listener: ”Hang on, what just happened ?” There’s no warning that the end is imminent, with classical cadences, lengthy dominant pedals, or any of the other devices music often employs to signal its conclusion. The song evaporates in a moment: puff, it’s gone.

Listen for yourself…

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