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Originally published Friday, December 9, 2011 at 5:32 AM

Tori Amos communes with classical, other pasts

On Tori Amos' latest project, "Night of Hunters," the 48-year-old singer-songwriter presents a song cycle based on themes by Chopin, Schubert, Satie and Debussy, among other classical composers. Amos performs two sets Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Seattle's Paramount Theatre, one with a full band and one with a string quartet.

Special to The Seattle Times

On the Internet

Hear a preview of Tori Amos' "Night of Hunters": www.youtube.com, search "Tori Amos Night of Hunters"

Concert preview

Tori Amos

8 p.m. Wednesday at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $49 (877-784-4849 or www.stgpresents.org).
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Of all the collaborators Tori Amos has worked with in her two-decade solo career, none have been more intimidating than the most recent — even though most of them have been dead for years.

The 48-year-old singer-songwriter's 12th studio album, "Night of Hunters," is a darkly romantic, sweeping song cycle based on themes by Chopin, Schubert, Satie and Debussy.

"That's a very, very tall order, and a very dangerous one," Amos said of the project over the phone a few weeks ago. "If you get it wrong, you get it really, really wrong."

An eight-time Grammy nominee widely known for her single "A Sorta Fairytale," Amos performs two sets at the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday, one with full band and one with a string quartet.

Amos credits a doctor of musicology at classical label Deutsche Grammophon — which released "Night of Hunters" — for suggesting the album.

"He would send me endless amounts of classical music so I could expose myself to all kinds of things," she said.

Though the disc didn't hit the chart heights of her more popular records, fans catapulted "Night of Hunters" to No. 1 on the Billboard classical charts the week of its release. It's the first album by a woman to appear simultaneously on Billboard's rock, alternative and classical lists.

The album takes the form of a song cycle, a lyrical device perhaps best employed by Franz Schubert. The story follows a pair of lovers in crisis, as Amos carries the couple through past civilizations and mythologies — placing them in ancient Celtic wars, ship voyages to the New World and deserts with mystically powerful cactus elixirs.

"The story doesn't have to be understood in a linear fashion," she said, "but more from an emotional place."

Making the album, Amos discovered some composers who were new to her.

"Erik Satie, (Enrique) Granados — I wasn't really familiar with their work," she said. "Once I discovered it, it just demanded to be a part of the project."

Amos hopes the lovers' story arc serves as a springboard for other couples to examine themselves.

"We get so distracted by the traumas that are happening in the world," she commented. "It's not as if they shouldn't command our attention. But our own relationships have to command our attention as well. If there's no healing within the sacred relationship of the home, then there's no way we can have peace outside in the world."

Paul Pearson blogs at paul-pearson.blogspot.com

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