Lola Perrin

Pianist and Composer

United States



Inspired by the musical landscapes of Ravel, Steve Reich, Abdullah Ibrahim and Foday Musa Suso, Lola Perrin has developed a unique sound world described by John Eyles as "holding the audience spellbound”. When reviewing her published books, Piano Magazine wrote “Someone could have a big success with these suites. I’ll happily send the scores to someone truly interested”.

Prolific composer and pianist Lola Perrin has recorded over four hours of solo and multiple piano. Pianists currently performing or recording her works include Anna Heller, Joanna Wicherek and Nada Kolundžija. She is working with London Sync Music, a dynamic music catalogue, to distribute her music for use in the visual media industry. During autumn 2022 her two new solo piano works ‘Let the birds have the skies’ and ‘Elegy for different times’ were distributed by Czech Music Direct to multiple streaming and digital download sites including Spotify and Apple Music. South African composer pianist vocalist Estelle Kokot has described Lola’s new works as “a huge salute to nature”. ‘Cloud Sky Fade’, play-listed on Sirius, RadioX, BBC R3 Night Waves and Radio 6 Music, has recently been re-released on La Torre Ibiza's 4th compilation. Her many collaborators include Brian Eno, Hanif Kureishi, scores of leaders in the ecological movement from futurist Jeremy Leggett to economist Kate Raworth, and artists and filmmakers including Phil Maxwell & Hazuan Hashim, Eleonore Pironneau, Nazarin Montag, Roberto Battista, David Oates, The Gray Circle, John Kennedy and Daniel Ranelli. Her compositions are published in sheet music form by Lola Perrin Sheet Music, Hal Leonard and Boosey & Hawkes. She’s been featured on various BBC radio stations including live feature performances for BBC R3 Jazz LineUp and RTÉ Radio’s Blues in the Night. She’s performed widely including her music for 6 pianos at Southbank Centre, specially written scores for silent films at BFI and Barbican Cinema, at festivals including Women of the World (UK), Motives (Belgium), Women in Jazz (Halle Opera House, Germany) and Women in the Arts (Missouri). She focuses on the piano and has a unique sound drawn from jazz harmony, minimalist structure and rhythms influenced by African kora and piano, calling her style 'Rave Music for Butterflies'. The Guardian describes her as “hauntingly compelling”. ‘Her Sisters’ Notebook’ for ten bass clarinets commissioned by Sarah Watts will be performed by Watts and others at Low Bass (Arizona) January 2023.

Foto: Nazarin Montag



What does music mean to you personally?

Music picked me when I was child and couldn’t wait to get back to my friends (my piano pieces) after school, composition picked me when I was a young adult, but the climate emergency has now picked me (along with everyone else who has chosen to wake up) and I accept that the most incredible achievements of our civilisation, including the sum total of music creation which we’ve preserved this far is at risk of annihilation, along with everything else. You can’t argue with a confirmed global temperature rise of at least two degrees and therefore with the chances for preservation. I miss the days when I could just listen to a piece of music and allow it to transform me without feeling scared everything Bach wrote will end up in a flood.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Fantasy….magic … I do think is that music is a form of magic; composers, improvisers, performers … conjure their work more or less out of nothing. Either an empty page of manuscript before the composer or a full score in front of a performer; it’s something you can only touch in your heart beat, in your mind, in your memory. It’s another realm, it’s in the mists. One beautiful thing though is that if you perform older music, you are literally touching history in the most esoteric way - the continuity of something intangible. And that really is fantasy.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

An astronaut, a marine biologist, a nurse, a small-scale vegetable gardener.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

The current model is just crazy, many professional musicians rarely perform, too many concerts with the nearly identical programmes, a very small number of people making decisions about who gets to perform and a whole load of the wrong people getting their hands on most of the money. This model assumes that great music should be properly acknowledged when it takes place in self-important locations that are beyond the reach of most of the population. The press resists previewing concerts that take place in lesser known, cheaper venues making it very hard for musicians who don’t play the big concert halls to get audiences along to their smaller concerts. No wonder this model rife with inequality is getting past its sell-by date!

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I’m writing this during a pandemic. This pandemic is directly related to globalisation, the virus started in one country, aviation continued despite the virus and before we knew it, the virus spread to the rest of the world and a pandemic was declared. One year later the pandemic is still here and the science is telling us that this is only one pandemic; more will follow. The fact is the way we use the planet needs to change. At this stage in our climate emergency I would say the performance that requires international travel with planet heating emissions is socially irresponsible. I hope music performance becomes disentangled from individual dreams of conquering the entire earth, and instead live music gets more embedded within the local community. Integration, not elevation. Perhaps we could be more inclusive if we musicians choose to enable that ourselves - whether we are amateurs or the next Martha Argerich - if we choose performance models that are also sustainable. I’d like to see more musicians make a type of revolution, an explosion for new audiences in natural settings; salons (people’s houses in the street in which you live), indoor and outdoor community spaces. Pass the hat around after the performance and you’d probably get more money if you regularly performed like this than from the number of yearly concerts you were playing before the pandemic.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Without creativity there is no musical process. I try not to tell the same story twice in my compositions so I look for different source triggers for my projects. It’s important for me to challenge myself. When I began composing I turned to paintings, memories of how things made me feel, ideas within correspondence with scientists and so on. In 2011 I decided to exclusively focus on environmental issues, using science to drive compositional thought. This gradually led different ways of integrating debate and audience discussion within new composition projects and let me to found ClimateKeys, a global initiative with a no-fly policy to stimulate audience engagement with action on climate change. Scores of creative musicians joined the initiative and developed unique concert programmes treating audiences to a new type of concert.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

Maybe playing music predominantly by lesser-known and unknown composers would change things.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

When I write, I try to open myself to the possibility that that the music is in the piano waiting to be found. I recently performed the first section of a current composition ‘And Breathe’ - it’s currently my favourite work; my partner asks me to play it to him every day and I’m enjoying getting to know it.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Find out about the composer’s life, know something about their personality and experiences so their music feels less remote.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

When I’m pleased with a piece I usually wonder if the audience will get what I’ve done in the way that I get it. Apart from that, I used to be terrified of the audience but that has gone thankfully.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I’m making short music films for a couple of different projects; one is for a COP26 event being organised by the UK Consulate in Boston, Massachusetts. I’m also writing for a new solo concert series - Piano Under The Stars. Maybe distant civilisations can tune in if they happen to find Earth through their telescopes. I’m planning to travel by van in my pop-up piano stage, performing on an electric piano powered by a solar battery to remote communities off the beaten track. The donations I get will go towards converting the van to electric. I want to have the chance to speak with audiences who happen to chance upon these unpublicised concerts. It’s important to talk to keep making community around navigating the most insidious threat of a 2+ Degree world.