In my opinion, the harp is one of the most beautiful instruments ever created. The sound it produces is stunning, resonating with a rich, celestial quality that can transport listeners to a world of serenity and emotion. Sadly, this instrument is not used as widely as it once was outside the world of classical music but electronic harp pioneer Lara Somogyi hopes to change all that. Her most recent album ! (Expansion) is a reworking of her debut album !, complete with remixes and the reworking of her original body of work. This 19 song album is a masterpiece of sound and possibly one of my favorite albums of the year. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Lara about the album and what made her choose the harp as her instrument of choice.
Hey Lara, for people who don’t know much about you, could you talk a little bit about how you got your start in music? What made you pick the harp as your instrument of choice?
- Lara Somogyi: Hey! Thank you so much for having me! I started playing the harp in elementary school when they offered a small lever harp. I was instantly transfixed by the timbre and resonance of the strings and was immediately in love. I had some piano background and was able to pick out solfège notes and instantly felt as though I had to learn this magical instrument. It was so beautiful and I was immediately drawn to its shape and the resonance. The sonority was unlike anything I’d ever heard before — so round, calming and inviting and as a child I really was fascinated by it. I would play everything I could on the instrument and was obsessed with symphonies and playing other instrumental lines on the harp even if there wasn’t a harp part — like Beethoven’s 6th Symphony or the Brandenburg Concertos. I do think that perhaps that sparked my joy of writing/arranging songs that weren’t necessarily meant or written for the instrument. This probably influenced and developed into my complete passion for exploring on the harp in its full sonic capacity and wanting to take it to contemporary and unexpected worlds.
Do you play any other instruments?
- My main instrument is harp but I can also play piano – however not very well haha! I was so enthralled with the harp that I never pursued any other instrument
You had a new album come out on Oct 20th, are you excited? What do you want new listeners to take away from the listening experience?
- I’m incredibly excited to have ! (expansion) my new record out and feel incredibly elated to share it with the world. ! and the expanded version I hope shifts listener’s perspectives and perhaps stirs a change of feeling or emotion. That’s what an “!” signals to me – to mark an exclamatory feeling or shift the tone of expression. The ! and ! (expansion) records are about creating bold textures and landscapes on the harp, and weaving vibrant, exclamatory sonic statements into an emotional tapestry using timbres, textures, and new ways of experiencing the harp. This album to me expresses a lot of my emotion on the harp and mission to give this instrument a new narrative sonically that makes me feel strongly. It’s an exploration of self and sound. I hope this album evokes an emotion from the listener or perhaps stirs a change of feeling for them.
As you go forward in your music career are there any artists you would love to collaborate with? If an independent artist wanted to collaborate with you what would be the best way to go about it?
- Collaborating with other artists is such a magical process and I feel so lucky to have worked with other artists on this release! Having their interpretations of these pieces from the original ! record is so special. I’m so inspired by their artistry — Kinnship, CARM & Trever Hagen, Joviale, and Cyrus Reynolds really took these pieces to a whole other dimension. Love how every artist has such a unique and individual voice which is really what makes music so special.
- Other than the ones featured on ! (expansion), I’m really inspired by the work of Hania Rani, Brian Eno, and Jon Hopkins — very inspirational artists that I really have deep admiration for.
- I’m always up for collaboration and exploring new pathways through sound!
Your music is so beautiful and ethereal, as a music consumer, do your listening tastes match your vibe as a musician or do you listen to unexpected sounds like heavy metal or country?
- Thank you so much for saying that! Oh great question — I do find myself listening to music that is in the same genre of the music I make, but I also absolutely have a very wide pallet of inspiration that I love to listen to. I love to listen to artists like Bonobo, Ms. Lauryn Hill, both of whom I feel very lucky to have also worked with. Also one of my most listened to artists is Bon Iver.
Is there a particular moment in your music career thus far that you are most proud of?
- I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had some very formidable moments in my career thus far and feel very lucky to be able to play this lush instrument every day. I would say making this record as well as ! record that came out last year has been some of my most proud moments as these pieces really came from a space where I needed to make them. The urge to explore the instrument in this way was so prevalent and present in my life as a harpist, that the writing and sharing these pieces that mean so much to me has been a pure joy and meaningful to me. Also having them released in such a vibrant and forward thinking home with MercuryKX has also been such an honor.
If you were given a box of all the things you have ever lost in your life, what would you look for first?
- Oooh another great question. I’m pretty meticulous with organization, otherwise my brain would explode but things I do tend to misplace a lot are quarter inch instrument cables (for my fx pedals)! No matter how many I buy, I’m always struggling to find the correct size and length when I need them