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by Nadia Sirota

Ellen Reid Takes to the Skies

Mapping Space Through Sound and Music

Composer Ellen Reid has lived in a lot of places: she grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, went to college in New York City, and spent a couple years teaching in Thailand before settling in California, where she ultimately found her creative voice. Ellen approaches composition from a scenic perspective - she got her start working in sound design for theater productions - and her beautifully-wrought music easily conjures sunlit valleys and craggy cliff sides.

I sat down with Ellen to discuss two recent works inspired by California landscapes: West Coast Sky Forever, and West Coast Sky Eternal. The first work, evoking sweeping views of Los Angeles as seen from the top of Mount Hollywood in Griffith park, was written for the Kronos Quartet as part of her sight-specific installation Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK. The second, a piece for string orchestra, was created in response to the landscape surrounding her property near Joshua Tree National Park

The sky and desert landscape in Yucca Valley, CA courtesy of Ellen Reid
The sky and desert landscape in Yucca Valley, CA courtesy of Ellen Reid

While the similarly-titled pieces are both written for strings and inspired by vistas in the state, the former is designed to be listened to in situ, leaving space for contemplation of one's natural surroundings. The latter, performed here by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and designed for the concert hall, explores both the draining, quotidian realities of life and the beauty of these same actions when viewed with a little perspective. - Nadia Sirota

Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK photo by Erin Baiano
Ellen Reid SOUNDWALK photo by Erin Baiano


Nadia Sirota is a violist, conductor, and producer. In all branches of her artistic life she aims to open classical music up to a broader audience. She is a sought-after collaborator and appears on over 100 studio albums, including four solo albums of commissioned music. Nadia received a Peabody Award for her podcast Meet the Composer, which she co-created, co-produced, and hosted. Nadia joined the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2023, teaching Chamber Music and Graduate Studies, and becoming the school’s first Creative Associate at Large.

Editing and sound design by Matteah Baim