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Some Scarlet thoughts

Added July 15, 2002

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Richard Handal posted some fascinating thoughts about Tori's upcoming album to the Precious Things mailing list that I have asked for permission to post here. I think it will give you some valuable background information on some of the themes that are part of Scarlet's Walk.

From: Richard Handal
Subject: Some Scarlet thoughts
To: (Precious Things)
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 04:58:44 -0400 (EDT)

Hi, All:

I want to share some thoughts about things which have been published pertaining to the upcoming album, Scarlet's Walk. There seem to have been contradictory details written about it. As we know, the MTV website has an article which discusses it.


This article says the album is "Based on a cross-country trip taken after September 11 . . ." All right, fine. But then an Allstar/CDNOW article titled "Tori Amos' America-Themed Scarlet's Walk Due Oct. 15" states: "The album's musical and lyrical journey was inspired by the tragic events of Sept. 11--the album was written entirely after the attacks on America while Amos was on the road."


No full press release has hit the street yet, but after piecing together quotes from early published sources, I believe that when it said Scarlet's Walk was "inspired by the tragic events of Sept. 11," the Allstar/CDNOW article characterized the album inaccurately.

During the 12 January 2002 interview <> with Ann Powers, Tori talks about her experiences while on the Strange Little Tour: "It seemed as if the people that were coming to the shows--and the crew, all of us together--were trying to weave the songlines of the country. In our tiny little way. It's not as if other people weren't doing it in their way. But no different than the aborigines, when they would cross Australia." Clearly, Tori spoke with Ms. Powers before the interview to let her know what things she was prepared to discuss, and the content of the upcoming album was at least coming together at that point, whether or not it had been completely decided on.

In that context, I see this album's title of Scarlet's Walk referencing journeys known as walkabouts that aborigines take, in part, for reasons of spiritual enlightenment. I think it's clear that it was out on the road during the Strange Little Tour when Tori had many of the experiences which inspired her to write the songs for this album.

I'm not saying that's the only reference to be gotten from the title, but I am saying that it is *one*.

That Allstar/CDNOW article lists some topics covered within the content of the album: "Native American history, pornography, Oliver Stone, and Andrew Jackson are just some of the subject matter on Tori Amos' forthcoming America-themed new album . . ." I want to address a couple of those topics, and how they fit in with the geography of the Strange Little Tour.

Andrew Jackson: This glosses over a lot of detail, but here goes. In the fall of 1813 some 400-500 Cherokee began fighting with American troops against the Creek Indians who had sided with the British against the Americans in the War of 1812. The two American Generals in this Creek War were Coffee and Jackson. The final battle in the war against the Creeks was at the Horseshoe bend of the Tallapoosa River on the morning of 27 March 1814. It is considered that the Cherokee fighting in that battle saved Jackson's life, and the lives of many of his men.

Jackson would later be President of the US from 1829-1837, and he ordered the Removal of the Cherokee from their severely depleted native lands in what is now southeastern Tennessee, northeastern Alabama, northwestern Georgia, and western North Carolina. This Removal came to be known as the Trail of Tears. Around 17,000 Cherokee men, women, and children were marched a thousand miles at gunpoint to Oklahoma for relocation. Some four thousand of them died as a direct result. A famous eyewitness account of the Removal comes from a Georgia man after he had served as a colonel in the Confederate Army during the Civil War: "I fought through the Civil War and have seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by thousands, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew."

After the Removal the old Cherokee chief Junaluska said: "If I had known that Jackson would drive us from our homes I would have killed him that day at the Horseshoe." Surely the sentiments that Junaluska expressed were echoed in the hearts of many Cherokee people then, and even today there is no wealth of good feeling when the memory of President Jackson is evoked.

Passing from Atlanta to Nashville on the Strange Little Tour, Tori would have traversed much of the original Cherokee homeland, including passing within a few miles of the final council grounds from the days before the Trail of Tears--in Red Clay, Tennessee--which has been turned into a state park. As they surely drove past there at night I doubt Tori could have managed to swing by Red Clay to share with Tash a sense of some of her heritage that exists there, but Tori's family seems to have roots in that area which go way back. According to what she said on the DDI Tour from the stage of the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga on 4 August 1996 her mom was born in Chattanooga, so she has every reason to be familiar with where Red Clay is and what it means.

Red Clay State Historic Park has some enlightening historical displays in the visitor center, and friendly, knowledgeable park rangers eager to share what they know about the Trail of Tears and the history of the Cherokee. <> I made sure to swing by there while following the tour and found it to be quite a moving experience.

There is an eternal flame there with a plaque that reads:

This Fire is a Memorial to Those People Who Suffered and Died on the Infamous Trail of Tears. It Also Commemorates the Reuniting of the Eastern and Western Cherokee Nations Here at Red Clay. Aug. 7, 1837 - April 6, 1984

Having awareness of these things and where they took place makes it difficult to drive through that whole area and not feel some of the lingering energy from those 19th-century events.

Native American history: On 27 October 2001 the tour was in St. Louis, and from the stage Tori said she had gone to Cahokia. I see no reason to write on this topic myself because a thoughtful person who reviewed that concert sent relevant details to Michael. <>

Jim Garrison

Added Oct 28, 2001 - You may have noticed that Tori mentioned visiting Cahokia today before the show. The guy sitting next to me said something like "what for??" That would not be an unusual reaction among people from here. Mostly when people think of "Cahokia" they think of the modern town by that name--best known for rows of oil refineries, a copper smelter, and other such attractions. Tori, no doubt, visited the other, original, Cahokia--some miles away from the modern town. Here's a link to the official Cahokia Mounds site. <> But, briefly, it's the site of a prehistoric settlement of the Mississippian people starting around AD 700 and ending about 700 years after that. At its peak, it was the largest urban place in the Americas north of Mexico. The primary features remaining from that time are the impressive mounds they constructed. I imagine you're familiar with mound builders along the Ohio River as well. Archaeologists have also unearthed what they came to call "woodhenge"--a kind of solar calendar used by the Mississippians in much the same way Stonehenge may have been used.

St. Louis used to be known as Mound City before the Arch. Now we're the Gateway to the West or something like that. There was once a huge Indian mound located not far north of modern-day downtown St. Louis. Over the years of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the mound was hauled away to make room for construction. There's a monument to memorialize the mound--the bronze plaque on that monument has been missing for years!

Much thanks for that to Jim Garrison. I'm biting my tongue to refrain from making any Jim Garrison-Oliver Stone references--but it's difficult. ;-)

Before I go I also want to discuss something mentioned in the LA Times Calendar section on 7 July 2002: 'Tori Amos, following the "Strange Little Girls" album in which she reworked male-written songs from a female perspective, has finished "Scarlet's Walk," which traces in song an eastbound trip across the U.S. post-Sept. 11.'

RJ posted this entry for the direction 'east' taken from "An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols," by J.C. Cooper:

The rising sun; dawn; Spring; hope; childhood; dawning life; youth. It is the direction towards which worship is oriented, especially for all solar Gods. Ceremonies concerned with death and resurrection stress the East as sunrise and life and the West as sunset and death.

I want to expand on this by quoting Joseph Campbell from his essay "Mythogenesis" as published in the book, "Transformations of Myth Through Time : An Anthology of Readings." Campbell was relating a story as told by an old Oglala Sioux priest about a mysterious woman who approached a pair of young hunters as they stood on a hill with their bows and arrows looking around for game. The woman told the hunters to tell their people to prepare a ceremonial lodge in anticipation of her returning with an announcement of great importance.

When the people of Black Elk's legend made their large ceremonial lodge that was symbolically a counterpart of the universe, they all gathered within it, extremely excited, wondering who the mysterious woman could be and what she wished to say to them. Suddenly, she appeared at the door, which was facing east, and proceeded sunwise around the central pillar: south, west, north, and again east. "For is not the south the source of life?" the old teller of the tale explained. "And does not man advance from there toward the setting sun of his life? Does he not arrive, if he lives, at the source of light and understanding, which is east? And does he not return to where he began, to his second childhood, there to give back his life to all life, and his flesh to the earth, whence it came? The more you think about this," he suggested, "the more meaning you will see in it."

Whereas Boys for Pele chronicled a descent into the naked yearnings for another's fire within one's personal subconscious, then dealt with finding one's *own* fire and true soul Way Down inside--and ultimately with experiencing a spiritual rebirth--Scarlet's Walk seems poised to address more universal issues of spirit and emotion; themes Tori apparently feels need to be brought to the fore in society, particularly in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks--NOT that it was directly "inspired by the tragic events of Sept. 11." As Tori said to Ann Powers in January when asked what happened to the sense of her music after the events of September 11:

Well, I think that when the planes went in the building, anybody that's been invaded on a personal level knows what that feeling is. And those that don't know what that feeling is, felt it for the first time. There was a sense of invasion when people were coming to the shows afterwards that was pouring out from people. I think something was split open then, as we all know, that as writers you're able to tap into something on a mass-conscious level that before you could only happen to with some that were willing, those who had taken a step on the path to say, okay, "I'm going to open this part of myself up. I want to know parts of myself that maybe I've put aside for a long time."

So, early indications about this album are saying to me that some of the themes it deals with include being grounded in one's own history, standing up against adversity, and seeking spiritual harmony with the universe.

It's early to be drawing easy conclusions, but this is the sense of what I'm getting so far. We'll see what she has to say about it when the time comes.

Be seeing you,

Richard Handal, H.G.

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