Five Things That Inspired Mary Lattimore’s Debut Album, The Withdrawing Room
Mary Lattimore, the Philadelphia harpist, has performed and/or recorded with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Daughn Gibson, Meg Baird, Tall Firs, Kurt Vile, Nightlands, and many others. (From March 25-31, she’ll be one of the two harpists performing as part of Nick Cave’s HEARD•NY at Grand Central Terminal). And her debut solo album, The Withdrawing Room, will be released in late March by the Desire Path label. Lattimore has recently been performing in duo with Arc In Round’s Jeff Zeigler (electronics/synthesizer), including a gorgeous 34 minute improvisation at one of our recent Folkadephia Sessions. Zeigler makes a few appearances on The Withdrawing Room, and the duo’s next concert is this Thursday at Kung Fu Necktie.
“Just like on the album,” says Lattimore, “when Jeff and I play live, it’s all improvised. I’ve been trying out a starting-point, a basic melody, but it takes different turns and changes into something different each time. I am still experimenting with ways of sustaining, and want to get more pedals to play through. Right now, I just use my Line 6 green looper and by repeating notes really fast through the effects, it can create a sort of wall of glitter where you can’t really hear the attack, which I like. Right now, I’m preferring more of a hazy and dark sound, or a wash of color, rather than a sharp, clear harp, stringy pluck.”
In preparation for Thursday’s show, and her debut album, we asked Lattimore to tell us about some of the things that influenced The Withdrawing Room.
THE HARPIST GEORGIA KELLY
“My great friend Meg Baird turned me on to Georgia Kelly, a New Age harpist, and I have some of her records from the 1970s and 1980s. Her songs are totally gorgeous and lush and very relaxing and lyrical. She really makes the strings sing to you. I like the idea of these pictures she starts out with—of rain, of Hawaii, of the sea—and then how she improvises musical odes to them.”
THE PAINTINGS OF PAUL JENKINS
“There are some watercolors by Paul Jenkins that really match how I wanted the record to sound. I found this book of his paintings in this bookstore in L.A. and I fell in love with them. I became pen pals with his widow, Suzanne, and she told me that Paul liked to say, “You have to have the will to be vulnerable.” He would kind of guide the paint with an ivory knife rather than brushes, but ultimately let the paint and water take him where he thought he might want to go, ending up with these deluxe colors elegantly bleeding into one another. Maybe my classical harp training is my ivory knife, where the more you know your instrument from hours in a practice room, the freer and weirder you can get with it.”
TARA BURKE AND HELENA ESPVALL
“Playing music with Fursaxa, Tara Burke’s project, and cellist Helena Espvall, really influenced the record. We’re all very close, so playing with them is just like having a great conversation, just very natural and easy to get into the zone. They both really inspire me.”
JULIANNA BARWICK’S THE MAGIC PLACE
“I love the record by Julianna Barwick, The Magic Place, that came out in 2011. Very pretty ethereal layers—a one-person choir.”
JAMES MCNEILL WHISTLER’S “PEACOCK ROOM”
“I ripped this picture out of a magazine of this room that I thought was lovely: James McNeill Whistler’s “Peacock Room,” which was moved to the Freer Gallery in DC. I love the way the room looks, especially in this picture, although I’ve never seen it in person. Originally, I made the record wanting it to be music to draw to—tto sit by yourself while doing something really creative, and then letting these long songs take you somewhere else. So I wanted to call it Music to Draw To, like [Brian Eno’s] Music For Airports. My friend Damon, after I showed him this picture, thought to look up the definition of “Drawing Room,” which apparently derived from “Withdrawing Room,” a place to withdraw for more privacy and quietness. So he came up with the title of the record, The Withdrawing Room, and hopefully people might hide out, listen to it, and draw something cool.”
Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler perform with Trummors, Fred Thomas, and the Morning River Band on Thursday, February 14 at Kung Fu Necktie 1250 N. Front Street. More information here.