Sarah Belle Reid ‘explodes assumptions’ at Studzinski Recital Hall
February 17, 2023
As technology increasingly enters the musical realm, genre-bending music is on the rise. Though the rich tone of the trumpet is rarely associated with the contortions of the electronic synthesizer, musical artist Sarah Belle Reid seeks to bend the predominant perceptions of music.
Reid has been making music since she was four years old but began combining her trumpet-playing with electronics once she was in grad school. Though she calls her music electroacoustic, she doesn’t feel that it fits entirely into one genre.
“It really isn’t about fitting into a single genre but more about exploring sound and interactions between electric and acoustic instruments,” Reid said. “I’m curious about sound in general, so I think my pursuit of new and unusual sounds is very central to my music making.”
Reid performed at Studzinski Recital Hall this past Friday, and her performance was surprising for students unfamiliar with her work.
“I didn’t really know what I was expecting going into it at all, but that was a very cool experience…. It kind of took experimental music to the next level,” audience member Alex Gouthro ’26 said.
It was Reid’s unique musical presence that first attracted Senior Lecturer and Chair of Music Department Frank Mauceri to her work. Mauceri originally brought Reid in as a guest speaker for one of his electronic music classes and later asked her to perform for a broader audience.
“I’m always searching for tutorial resources for my students and she has a strong online teaching presence,” Mauceri said. “She’s teaching people, and she’s running her own online courses about all of this technology, and her demonstrations are really great.”
Mauceri referenced how Reid’s distinctive creativity sets her apart from musical norms.
“She has a very experimental disposition in her creative work. There’s a lot of improvisation, and even throughout the course of the performance, there’s a lot of investigation and experimentation in a very playful way,” Mauceri said. “This experimental disposition doesn’t always result in familiar sounding things, but the surprises are so aesthetically rich that we can have a very rich experience with unfamiliar and unexpected behavior.”
Reid defies the standard of electronic music by tying together the acoustic sounds of her trumpet with more traditionally electronic beats.
“A lot of times with electronic music, we witness somebody turning knobs and typing on their computer. And a lot of people feel that there’s something missing in the performance, as someone typing isn’t so interesting to watch. So to see [Reid’s] very physical expressivity in the trumpet being mediated and expanded by technological resources adds an important dimension,” Mauceri said.
The performance itself was set up to immerse the audience in the music, inviting them to be active participants rather than passive listeners.
“She uses a surround sound system. The movement of the sounds in space is really quite special because sound is moving forward, back, right, left, and all the sound is in motion, so listeners are immersed,” Mauceri said. “It’s not like the music is out there and you’re listening to it, instead, you’re inside the environment. And that’s a really different experience.”
Mauceri hoped that by bringing Reid to Bowdoin, his music students as well as young people across all disciplines would recognize how much versatility can be involved with technology and music.
“I wanted to explode those assumptions about what’s possible,” he said. “Sarah’s work does exactly that.”
But Reid doesn’t always receive only positive feedback. Many have immediate reservations about her fusion of sounds. Throughout her career, many have been uncomfortable with this unfamiliar realm she introduces, but she stated that her goal is to push the boundaries and introduce novel listening experiences.
“A lot of the time when people have an immediate reaction to something where they feel like ‘Oh, I don’t like that,’ if they just sit with that for a minute, what they discover is that what’s under that feeling is just unfamiliarity,” Reid said. “I actually kind of find it exciting when someone has a strong reaction, like my music has pushed them to feel something, and maybe think in a new way.”
More of Reid’s music can be found on her website, sarahbellereid.com.
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