Awards for Artists
Image of Serafina Steer
Photo credit: Emile Holba

Serafina Steer

Serafina Steer (born 1982) sees her practice as much as a social activity as an expressive, technical art and takes an increasingly experimental, punk approach to music making. She approaches her work through the lens of a ‘lived in’ and free quality, largely composing through improvisation and collaboration.

A vocalist, classically trained harpist and pianist, Steer’s work resists categorisation, often arising through the juxtaposition of musical disciplines. Having used the harp as her principal tool for many years and three albums, in 2013 Steer decided to take her practice in a different direction and started learning the bass guitar by using it to write.

Steer released her debut album Cheap Demo Bad Science in 2006 and Change is Good, Change is Good in 2010. In 2013, her album The Moths Are Real, produced by Jarvis Cocker, was released. As part of trio Bas Jan, Steer released a self-titled EP in 2017. The full album Yes I Jan will be released on Lost Map Records in January 2018.

With Bas Jan, Steer has performed at the BFI, Serpentine Summer Pavilion, Green Man and Supernormal Festivals, BBC 6 Music Live and Radio 3. Her solo performances include Café Oto, London; Queen Elizabeth Hall, London; and Salle Pleyel, Paris. She has completed commissioned work for the Brighter Sound and the Brancage Film Festival.

I am more surprised than anyone that I have been given this prize. The possibility of making plans for up to three years in the future is just mind–blowing and I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. Initially, I know that I would like to take some time to study, buy quite a lot of recording equipment, a bass guitar, a travel harp and pay back some huge favours. I am incredibly grateful to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, my family and too many people to mention here!

Examples of work

King of the Holloway Road, 2016

Bass guitar (Emma Smith), keyboard (Steer) drums (Jenny Moore), violin with effects pedals and OP1 keyboard (Sarah Anderson) and three voices.
3 minutes 1 second duration (extract 2m).

Island Odyssey, 2012

Harp and voice (Serafina Steer), recorders (Leo Chadburn), percussion (Jacob Smedegaard and David Cunningham), nose flute (David Coulter). Engineered by Richard Flack, produced by Jarvis Cocker.
3 minutes 9 seconds duration (extract 2m).
Released by Stolen Recordings Ltd, January 2013.

Dream of You, 2016

Bass guitar additional keyboards (Serafina Steer), drums (Jenny Moore), violin with effects pedals and OP1 (Sarah Anderson) and three voices.
Engineered by Capitol K, additional recording Leafcutter John and Leo Abrahams. Mixed by Leafcutter John
3 minutes 47 seconds duration (extract 2m).

Argument, 2016

Bass guitar, drums (Jenny Moore), violin with effects pedals (Sarah Anderson) and three voices.
Engineered by Leafcutter John and Leo Abrahams. Mixed by Leo Abrahams
4 minutes 4 seconds duration (extract 2m).