Tori Amos in the recording studio

Tori Amos In the StudioI always enjoy reading about Tori and her music. Jake Brown’s Tori Amos In the Studio begins appropriately with biographical details from Tori’s youth. But the book’s real focus is on her songwriting and album recording processes. Brown quotes liberally from dozens of magazine interviews to weave a cohesive portrait of what went into creating Tori’s magical songs. You learn interesting tidbits, such as producer Eric Rosse’s use of plastic hoses and cardboard percussion to craft some of the unique sounds on Little Earthquakes—or how Tori’s tummy serves as a foolproof guide for evaluating whether a recording works or not. Continue reading →

The Changeling: a lost opportunity for horror

The Changeling movie posterThe 1980 horror film The Changeling represents the best and the worst of horror movies. Directed by Peter Medak and conceived by Russell Hunter (purportedly based on his own experience), it stars George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere. Composer John Russell relocates to Seattle after the death of his family and rents an old mansion. Beset by strange occurrences in the house, he becomes obsessed with the mystery behind the haunting and uncovers the hidden past of a powerful senator. It’s a compelling premise, but falls apart toward the end—the bane of many a horror story. I watched the film for the first time recently, having heard good things about it. I can easily see what makes it a good supernatural story: the gradual presence of the spirit, the spooky seance, the enigma that keeps us guessing what the title means in terms of the plot. But why does it end up so disappointing? Continue reading →

Horror stories involving music

Horror fiction does not often feature music as a plot element. True, the two are not a natural or obvious pair. But considering the omnipresence of music in our lives, this represents untapped potential. That seems to be changing with a spate of works published since 2016. For those of us who enjoy our horror and music together, I’ve compiled the list below, which I will periodically update. Whether music is the backdrop (The Shatter Point), the key to the story (Violin), or an element that adds atmosphere and mystery (The Willows) varies according to the work. I welcome your feedback. Continue reading →