Sweet the Sting

Friday 9 September 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

"There’s sensuality in this song that I find delicious, a reunion of the masculine and the feminine, translated in music when the piano meets the Hammond B3 organ. It’s a definition of sexuality that has nothing to do with pornography and abuse, nor with the puritan concept of procreation given by extreme right-wingers. I explore the essence of the sacred prostitute. Why can’t she be a mother, a wife, a mistress and fulfill the needs of her loved ones? Why must she stay trapped in just one role?" (Voir, February 24, 2005)

« Elixirs and Herbs is a place that the passion that this woman has for her beliefs or the man that she loves, for the direction that humanity is going is very much where she’s exploring and allowing herself to not only heal what are wounds but to allow her wounds to express themselves. And this doesn’t have to always be a place of victimization. This sometimes is a place of being able to confront something that’s out of balance. And it’s an ancient practice that the bee-shamans have been working for thousands of years. They work with a tradition that forces you to look at these places that may need to be stung. And there’s a song on this record in the group of Elixirs and Herbs called « Sweet the Sting ». And in order for you or I to gain the sweetness, wisdom doesn not come without the sting. » (The Beekeeper Bonus DVD)

"Yesterday I spent hours on ’Sweet the Sting’; from playing the piano riff over and over to listening to it on my crap tape recorder, to masking changes and incorporating them. The story started evolving soon after the B3 Hammond organ, whom I have named ’Big Momma," was delivered. Everytime I entered the room in the morning to begin my practice time, Big Momma would be humming. Yes, of course her power had been left on, but I’m talking about the kind of humming you detect in a girlfriend after she’s had a romantic evening. Turns out Big Momma has a boyfriend. Another organ, specifically another B3 organ. This romance led me to the story of two B3 players, one female, the other male, whose erotic dance revolves around each impressing the other by how well they play their own organ." (Tori Amos: Piece by Piece)

Resulting from this process are pieces like "Sweet the Sting," a vocally-rich rhumba track that seductively grooves on a bed of Hammond harmonies. Though conceptually conceived on piano and sonically born on Hammond, song comes full circle when she plays it live.
"I never saw it as an acoustic track. I saw it very much as a rhythmic piece. So in order to get percussion without bass or kick drum, I play it live on piano." (Keyboard, July 2005)

For instance, the sensual, Brazilian-influenced Sweet the Sting, on The Beekeeper, about a knowing encounter with a dangerous man, "does all kinds of things that I shouldn’t know about. She’s a sexy mama, very spiritual, and she won’t allow any of the other songs to judge her. She’s my Afternoon Delight gal." (Palm Beach Post, August 7, 2005)

« The one song that I think really embodies the sovereignty of "Woman in her flesh"—her physical body, her mental body, her emotional body, and her spiritual body— for me on this record was "Sweet the Sting." I desired Afro-Cuban rythms, the Hammond organ, as well as the gospel choir as a triad, as a pyramid shape.
It was really inspired bu Stevie Wonder "Pastime Paradise." As a young girl I would listen to that record, naked feet reaching deep down into rich, red earth. It made a lot of sense to me to plug in through this raw essence that Stevie was able to channel when he played and composed, to really be able to harness this vortex of sexuality and spirituality. I always thought that he was very close to a raw spirituality when I would hear his music. I wanted to bring that into our assimilation of the modern woman as well as the ancient mythological undertone before it was subjugated by the patriarchy and demeaned.

It was really a marriage I’m talking about on this record, the marriage of the Magdalene and of the Mother Mary, what I call "marrying the Marys." That’s what it is within a Christian context. In the Judaic, or a wider sense, it would be the marrying of Lilith and Eve, so that they’re not competitive or severed, but they each become sovereign, whole. Al; women can embody all of these female archetypes, maybe to different degrees because of what you’re drawn to. That’s what The Beekeeper was really about, the secrets of the hive that have been with us but suppressed for thousands of years. "Sweet the Sting" was really an exercise in growing, learning, and becoming whole; sometimes you have to first be disembodied before you can transform these disjointed parts of the self so that they come together as a mosaic and not left eternally dismembered." (A piano book, 2006)