SARAH BELLE REID
By SPECIWOMEN Illustration SENDRA UEBELE
Who are you?
I'm a musician. I compose music and play trumpet, modular synthesizer, and an odd collection of homemade electroacoustic instruments and noise-makers.
What drew you to music?
I think music drew me to music. It was always playing around the house when I was younger. I remember blues and jazz in the kitchen around meal prep time. My mom started teaching me piano when I was about 4 years old. The trumpet came into my life a little later, and working with electronics and modular synthesizers even later after that. I guess you can say music has always been part of my life, but the thing that has kept me drawn to it all these years is that there's something new around every corner... the funny thing about sound is that the more you listen, the more you hear.
Do you remember the moment you decided this was the path for you?
I'm not sure I do. I started playing music as a kid and it sort of just gradually became my main focus in life. I'm grateful I've always had supportive people in my life who have encouraged me to do what I love.
Who/what are you biggest inspirations as a musician?
So many people and places and things. The amazing artists I collaborate with, my friends, my family, rainy mornings, small bridges, rivers, thrift stores, snail mail...I've also been reading a lot lately about relativity and black holes and the phenomenology of time, which I find so inspiring.
If you could collaborate with 3 people, who and why?
That's a tough one, because my wishlist is so long... have we invented time travel yet? I'd love to go back in time to Daphne Oram's studio and collaborate with her on a piece for the Oramics machine and MIGSI (my electronically augmented trumpet).
Talk to me about the first song you've ever written
Oh wow...really truly the first one? I think I was about 8 years old, and I wrote a song on piano about a world with purple skies and tangerine clouds.
After that, the first instrumental composition I ever wrote was a brass quartet called Circumplex. I was in my first or second year of college and had just spent a semester being introduced to the work of 20th-century composers like Cornelius Cardew, George Crumb, and John Cage. I had never seen or heard anything like the music of these composers and was so fascinated.
Circumplex was a piece based on the circumplex model of emotion and used a mix of traditional western musical notation with more graphical and spatialized elements. If I remember correctly, some of my classmates and I put on a sort of guerilla-style premiere performance during the changeover between two pieces at a chamber music concert. While they were shuffling chairs and instruments around on stage we spontaneously started playing from the four corners of the room, surrounding the audience. Afterward one of the audience members asked me to autograph his program, which was also a first. I had almost completely forgotten about that, so thanks for asking!
Where does performing bring you?
Performing takes me to a place mentally where I feel simultaneously hyper-focused and completely lost. And somehow also most like myself... just listening deeply, discovering sounds as they come, and responding to the present moment.
What are your thoughts about social media and the constant evolution of technology?
I think social media is amazing in the way it can connect people together and bring momentum to important causes. I think it can also be really intense and damaging if we let it consume us too deeply. It's important to stay true to your own goals and to try to not get too bogged down with how you perceive others through their shiny social media lens. And in terms of technology in general? I'm a pretty big fan—it plays a big role in my creative practice (incorporating sensors, micro-controllers & programming into live performance) and I think the work and research being done at the intersection of technology and the arts is fascinating.
As a woman, how have your experiences shaped your sound?
Throughout college I had very few women mentors and teachers. I'm my technology-focused classes in particular, there were never more than a few female students. I think those experiences really made me value the importance of community and supporting one another—especially in small numbers. In addition to performing and writing music, I've recently started offering workshops and classes as a way of sharing what I do in more depth and connecting directly with people over their musical goals and projects. I'm excited to grow this part of what I do.
Follow Sarah’s work here.