Last year we were honored to host renowned Philadelphia producer Jeff Zeigler and harpist Mary Lattimore for our New Year’s film program. The two have joined together for a new album, Slant of Light, out September 22 on Thrill Jockey. Preview the track “The White Ballroon” above (courtesy of the Quietus).
The Crowley Theater, December 30, 2013. Photo by Lesley Brown.
On December 30, Jeff Zeigler and Mary Lattimore visited Marfa to score Ballroom’s fifth-annual New Year’s eve film: Philippe Garrel’s, La Révélateur (1968). Music blog, the Repeater, recently met with Zeigler and Lattimore to discuss their thoughts on west Texas, why they were attracted to La Révélateur, and what’s next for the duo.
Here is an excerpt from part I of the interview, where the musicians discuss creating the score:
Jeff: Despite our previous experience scoring films, the task was not easy. We started by just watching the film and trying to come up with themes, not totally sure what approach to take. While the film has some general recurring ideas—relationship conflict, emotional distance, and coming of age— this doesn’t totally translate into an obvious angle from a musical standpoint.
We decided to start from the most logical path: Improvising to the film as a whole, coming up with musical themes from that, and then building it into a cohesive idea.
Mary: ….We set up in Jeff’s studio and watched the film once through in silence, getting to know the characters. We pinpointed the family’s recurring activities. The film’s pace varies from almost excruciatingly slow, to measured and weary escape, and then to rapid, terrorized flight. So, one of our objectives was to create sounds that reacted instinctively to the movement or stillness in the film. Some of the most memorable scenes were of the couple running through the forest, of the boy moving through a tunnel, and of waves delivering swans elegantly to shore. The boy is the hero of the film, and carries with him a levity and playfulness that contrasts with the dark and troubled parents, and we wanted to focus on that, too.
When we watched the film a second time, Jeff and I jammed from a static drone, and then I started to play a slow melody as the boy walked through a lonely tunnel. This melody came back and morphed into different keys later on, whenever the slow walking reappeared. We created a few themes, and then took them to different places depending on the action. Jeff’s melodica was a really important voice in the melody. He would play a mournful ribbon over my repetitive figures, and the combination of instruments fit together very organically.
Some of the music was just texture, noise, lowered loops of fingernails scraping on harp strings and aggressive banging on stuff. Some of it was silence and negative space. I made Jeff take over the scene of the laughing boy in the bathroom because I had no idea what to do. Our notes were just pages of “Fur Coat = Sparse. Boy Walks Alone. Crucified Parents Theme F#. Silence – Wall Words. Slow Crucified Parents. Tunnel Bed Thick Gliss. Boring Bedroom 2. Fast Train Dm-Cmajor,” and on and on in our language.
Just got in the Le Révélateur posters, hand-drawn by the multi-talented Ross Cashiola. This is our fifth (!) annual New Year’s film program, and we’re screening Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur (1968) with a live score by harpist Mary Lattimore and synth player Jeff Zeigler. That’s December 30 at 7 pm — more details here.
Also for your calendars: we’ll have a New Year’s Eve Open House at the gallery on December 31 from 4-6pm. Stop by for refreshments and a two-for-one poster sale (may I recommend the Le Révélateur poster, with perhaps this, this, this, this, this, or this?)
¡Feliz navidad y próspero año nuevo!
It’s a ways off, but we are beyond excited to announce that harpist Mary Lattimore and synth player and luminary producer Jeff Zeigler will head down here December 30 to play our annual New Year’s silent film/live score project. I first heard Mary’s work on Frosty’s MPR Dublab show and was instantly struck. We’ll have more details as we get within shouting distance of the event (or winter) (or even fall), but in the meantime, check out Mary’s work with Jeff here, and read this 2011 AV Club interview with Mary here:
“The A.V. Club: Of all the instruments in the world, how did you choose the harp?
Mary Lattimore: My mom is a professional harpist, so I was always around harps—my mom’s harpist friends and the kids that took lessons from her, going along to her symphony rehearsals—and I was always listening to her work on parts and pieces, so the harp’s always been a part of my life. When it came time to learn how to play, I was 11 years old and I didn’t enjoy it so much at first, but the better I got the more it became my own. And now I have this 30-year story with this instrument that feels like a sister or something. It’s gone everywhere with me.
I think the harp is the most rewarding and complex, most beautiful and magical lush instrument. If you’re into it, you get over the paying for it: the longish car to take it around, the first-floor apartment you always have to have, the space it takes up, the 47 different strings, the maintenance, and the getting to know its layout and mechanics. You can’t have a glamorous manicure. It takes a long time to feel comfortable on it; you don’t feel masterful very quickly.
I think that if you find yourself drawn to the sound of the harp in particular, nothing else sounds like it, so it sort of picks you. You measure things out, and if your love for that sound comes out on top, there’s not really a question of harp versus guitar. It’s something weird and special to have in your life.”