Sarah Neufeld’s string theory

Arcade Fire violinist brings her solo work to Winnipeg as part of the New Music Festival’s Pop Nuit concert series

Sarah Neufeld. Supplied

As people around the world eagerly anticipate the new album from critically-acclaimed Montreal indie rock band Arcade Fire, Winnipeg music fans will have the opportunity to see the group’s violinist, Sarah Neufeld, in concert this week.

Neufeld will perform her solo instrumental material at the West End Cultural Centre on Wednesday, Jan. 30 as part of Pop Nuit, a concert series that is part of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival.

“Performing solo is always terribly exhilarating,” the 33-year-old says by email from New York. “People can expect to see me, playing violin, alone. I encourage eye-closing and letting the mind wander.”

Originally from Vancouver Island, B.C., Neufeld began playing the violin at the age of three. She moved to Montreal in 1998 to study music and joined Arcade Fire five years later. She is also a member of instrumental post-rock ensemble Bell Orchestre.

While she calls Montreal home, Neufeld visits New York often. She co-owns Moksha Yoga NYC, the city’s first branch of the hot-yoga chain Moksha.

The New York Times reported this past May that renovating Moksha Yoga NYC’s West Village studio brought Neufeld back to music.

“I would come home covered in sawdust and stress and play violin,” Neufeld told the Times. “People asked me to tour and without thinking about it too much I said yes. Now I want to make a record.”

It’s really interesting to isolate an instrument and to push its (or my) boundaries.

Sarah Neufeld

Just days prior to answering The Uniter’s questions, Neufeld returned from Berlin where she recorded her solo album with her friend, engineer/producer/composer Nils Frahm.

“We did all sorts of field recordings and also worked in a gorgeous old classical recording studio,” Neufeld says. “It was a fantastic experience and I’m pretty excited to put it out.”

She composed the body of work mainly in 2012.

“I’ve had these solo violin ideas incubating for a while. Normally I incorporate everything in collaborations. It’s really interesting to isolate an instrument and to push its (or my) boundaries.”

In an interview with, Neufeld described some of her solo material as “hard-driving, rhythmic stuff” as well as more lyrical pieces, which the writer suggested could sound like Philip Glass on a Cape Breton vacation. Neufeld didn’t disagree with that assessment.

“I’ve always had a lot of more contemporary classical influences, and I love Gypsy fiddle, and I love all the fiddle styles from around the world, but I’ve never had a home in any of them,” she told “I just get inspired by the rawness and the rhythms and all that, but my melodic sensibilities are more rooted in pop music.”

While she declines to reveal its release date, Neufeld does tell The Uniter that creating the album has been her most satisfying - and intense - solo music experience yet.

“It’s so different than a collaborative recording experience,” she says. “On one hand it’s totally crazy-making (you, by yourself, all the time, pressure pressure!) and on the other, it’s really rewarding.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 23, 2013)

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