Sarah Belle Reid (b.1989) is a Canadian born, Los Angeles based trumpet player, improvisor, intermedia artist, and composer who is often cited as having an onstage presence that is both captivating and passionate.
Her current work focuses on liminality and memory imprints both in sound and physical performance—a fascination inspired by Duchamp’s writings on infrathin. She has also been working on the design and development of new interfaces for musical expression, as a means of augmenting the trumpet.
Actively involved in the creation and realization of new and experimental music, Sarah has premiered dozens of new works for solo trumpet across North America, as well as multiple chamber music and performance art pieces.
She performs regularly with improvising ensembles including Kevin Robinson’s KREation Ensemble and the recently founded trumpet/modular synth duo Burnt Dot. Sarah’s compositions have been performed by acclaimed artists including Vinny Golia, Kris Tiner, and Carmina Escobar.
In 2015 Sarah received a Master of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts, with a focus on multidisciplinary performance and music technology. Sarah graduated with a Bachelor of Music in trumpet performance from McGill University’s Schulich School of Music in 2012. She has been educated by world renowned musicians including Edward Carroll, Charlie Haden, and Wadada Leo Smith, and mentored by music technology leaders such as Dr. Perry Cook and Dr. Ajay Kapur.
Sarah has published numerous technical and theoretical papers on the subjects of interdisciplinary process and collaboration, as well as responsive music technology and performer engagement.
My work is centered around new, experimental, and improvisatory music, as well as multidisciplinary collaborations and installations.
Q&A with Sarah Belle Reid
What inspires you to create work and perform so passionately?
I am fortunate enough to be able to collaborate with composers, choreographers, video designers, music technologists, actors, and artists from a multitude of creative backgrounds to create new work on a regular basis. The conversations and interactions I have with these artists are endlessly inspiring. They pull me out of my comfort zone and demand that I constantly keep developing and deepening my personal practice.
More often than not, the work that results from these collaborations is deeply personal and meaningful. The pieces are challenging—oftentimes physically, mentally, and emotionally—which means that I have no choice but to commit 110% to every performance.
What is your advice to younger musicians/artists?
Work hard—really, really, really hard.
What are you interested in investigating through your work?
As a trumpeter, I want to be continuously expanding my sound world. Lately I’ve been performing and improvising a lot alongside various electronic musicians, and it’s been a lot of fun trying to “steal” their sounds, and then figuring out how closely I can reproduce them on the trumpet. This type of practice really pushes me to always have my ears open and my imagination fully turned on.
As a composer, I’m currently working a lot with graphic notation, and using materials such as transparent film, acrylic, and glass to construct musical scores. I spend a lot of time thinking about what the “other side” of a notated musical element might sound like. If you could step into a manuscript and play the notes from behind, how would they sound? Are they perfectly round, or do they protrude farther back into space than we realize?
The notation that I am developing is designed to try and provoke interpreters to exercise this type of curiosity, and to physically interact with the score by moving around it, underneath it, or by looking completely through it to the other side.
Describe your relationship with your work.
My relationship with trumpet playing, and with music in general, has changed tremendously over the past couple of years. When I was younger I had a very traditional music education. I was fortunate enough to go to a wonderful university and pursue a degree in orchestral trumpet performance. Toward the end of my bachelor’s degree, my mentor and I decided that I should go through an embouchure change in order to correct some postural and technical issues that I was struggling with.
For the next year, trying to rebuild my trumpet player was like learning to walk all over again. It was unfamiliar, and embarrassing at times, and felt like an endless amount of work. But what also happened during this period—albeit very awkwardly at first—is that I first started finding my voice as an artist.
Trumpet is still, and most likely always will be, my primary instrument. But what defines me and motivates me as an artist is so much more than simply the instrument that I play. I began to realize that technical proficiency was far from the only important ingredient required to be a musician and performer. In the years that followed, I started to work with dancers, to incorporate live video and electronics into my music, and awarded myself the newfound confidence of being able to take a risk and fall flat on my face.
Are you working on anything right now that feels like new ground in your body of work?
Honestly, these days I more or less exist in a perpetual state of unfamiliarity with my music. A few months ago I had a great conversation with a colleague of mine and wonderful trumpeter Nate Wooley, during which he said, “when you’re playing and it starts to feel uncomfortable, that’s when you know you’re doing something right.”
I couldn’t agree with that statement more. I strive to constantly be pushing myself toward that precipice; to the point when things start to feel slightly uncomfortable. When things get a little bit uncertain, a little too hard, a little too ugly, and everyone in the room is on the edge of their seats—that’s where I want to be.