A Q&A with British composer Lara Serafin

  1. You started playing violin and piano at five years old.  Did you have a special teacher who inspired you?  

    I had the same violin teacher from the age of ten to nineteen who had such a strong love for music and composition that it was infectious. He could tell when I really hated a piece and would suggest something new and he’d often write pieces in styles he knew I’d like to play. I’m so thankful that he stuck with me for that long!

  2. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? (both in music and in life)

    Make your own work and don’t wait for opportunities to come around.

  3. When did you start hearing music in your head, and when did you build the confidence to express it?


    I think I’ve always made up tunes in my head. In order to express it fully though you need the practical skills of being able to play it or record it, but then there’s the extra step of doing that in front of people that you have to have a certain level of confidence in your work. That never really goes away, playing other people your music always puts a little bit of yourself out on display to be judged. It’s like with anything, if you practise it enough you get a little more confident each time.

  4. What composers inspire you and why? 

    I recently watched the film “Sisters With Transistors” (dir. Lisa Rovner) and wished that it had been around years ago. During university and throughout my master’s, which was focused primarily on electroacoustic composition, the majority of the music we studied was by male composers and I did feel as if I had to write in a certain style in order to fit in with that. I knew the music of some of the women featured in the film beforehand, but seeing how they worked close up in the archive footage in the film and hearing their voices and opinions was so refreshing. Seeing the positive reception that the film has received has restored my faith in not being afraid to experiment with new types of music making and it is wonderful to see our community of so many fantastic women composers making great music and being lauded for it.

  5. How much of your instrumental playing finds its way into your compositions?


    It totally depends on what kind of thing I’m writing. Generally if I’m writing an instrumental or orchestral piece, I’d start working it out on the piano, but melodies I often find are easier to get from the violin and I also find it really helpful to switch up instruments if I get stuck in a rut. But then some pieces that I’ve written have been based on patterns or a more abstract idea, and these have grown on the page rather than from playing it at all. It’s more like solving a puzzle in a sense rather than coming from my head. For my electronic work I usually start from a field recording and chop and change it into something completely different, and I really like to experiment and challenge myself to make a few different versions of these to see how far I can end up from the original source. Then sometimes it’s a mixture of the three!

  6. You are also an educator.  How does your teaching influence your composing, and vice versa?  What lessons/values do you want to impart to your students, and what to your audiences?

    I think it’s so important to include composition and songwriting into instrumental lessons. It’s a whole area of music that I think is really missing from the way that graded exams are set up (in the UK at least) and aside from being an enjoyable and good skill to have in and of itself, it’s also a much more fun way of teaching music theory. I have some students that often turn up to the lesson with a melody or a chord pattern, and we’ll spend the lesson building it out. It’s so satisfying seeing people who I have taught since they were beginners writing and practising their own songs.

  7. How do you stay connected to inspiration?

    I don’t constantly look out for it. I feel like it’s much more effective to spend your time learning and trying new things out and taking breaks from being creative, rather than constantly feeling as if you need to come up with something new and trying to be inspired by things all the time. When a good idea does come along you need to be able to give yourself the time to work on it properly and give it justice rather than moving straight onto the next thing.

  8. How would you describe your sound and composition style?

    A bit of a mish-mash! For example, the EP I’m working on now is completely derived from field recordings – the structure of some of the pieces are based on mathematical patterns whereas others are completely abstract – but I also really love orchestration and have been assisting on orchestrating and arranging contemporary classical scores for a few film and tv projects for other composers. I find it quite fun when the two come together and use electronics or tape tracks as an extension of an instrumental piece – there are so many sound worlds that are yet to be tapped into!

    Check out Lara’s AWFC profile.

    Interview by Lili Haydn

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