Iconoclastic composer and artist Mira Calix dies at 52

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Mira Calixa composer, producer and visual artist whose work encompassed electronic music, orchestral commissions, public art installations, theater scores, music videos and DJ sets, died March 25 at her home and music and art studio in Bedford, England. She was 52 years old.

The death was confirmed by his partner, Andy Holden, who declined to specify the cause.

“She pushed the boundaries between electronic music, classical music and art in a truly unique way,” her label, Warp Records, said in a press release.

Ms. Calix’s projects included solo albums, collaborations, and numerous singles, EPs, productions, and remixes; music for the 2017 Royal Shakespeare Theater stagings of ‘Julius Caesar’ and ‘Coriolanus’, and a 2003 piece, “Nunu”, which brought together the London Sinfonietta, the electronics of Calix and a cage of live cicadas and crickets, amplified and broadcast on video screens.

It receives commissions to make public art.

“I love trying to change someone’s day,” she told music and culture site The Quietus in 2012. “I like people discovering something without any expectation. They don’t care who did it. They didn’t go buy a ticket, so it’s not about being reverential. People can just walk around.

Among his free facilities were “Nothing is set in stone,” an egg-shaped stone monolith in London that used sensors to respond to visitor movement with music. Another was “Passage,” a permanent installation in a railway tunnel in Bath that has been converted into a cycle and pedestrian path with interactive lights and sounds. “Inside the Falls” was a shed-sized paper sculptural environment in Sydney, Australia, complete with music and dancers. And “Moving Museum 35” was a traveling sound installation on a city bus in Nanjing, China.

Ms. Calix told the students to Nanjing University of the Arts, who worked with her: “We don’t try to make things easy for our audience. We try to make things real.

Although her plays often employed classical musicians and singers, Ms. Calix was not a traditionally schooled musician. She became a composer working with computers and samplers. His music often relied on rehearsals of minimalism and dance music, field recordings of rural and urban sounds, formed and unformed voices, and layered extracts and fragments.

“I wanted to breathe air into electronic music,” she said. Interview magazine in 2015. “I record the sounds of twigs, bark and stones. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of ​​combining the natural and the artificial. This juxtaposition is really beautiful. The question of what is natural and unnatural is very open.

Although her music has often been described as experimental and avant-garde, she insisted that she spoke to ordinary listeners. In a 2012 video interview, she said, “People like weird stuff. People love abstraction. People love magic, and those are the things that motivate me to do work.

Mira Calix (pronounced Mee-ra KAY-lix) was born Chantal Francesca Passamonte in Durban, South Africa on October 28, 1969 to Gabriele and Riccarda Passamonte. She studied photography but was passionate about music, and with South Africa isolated by anti-apartheid sanctions, she moved to London in 1991 to have direct contact with its music scene. She got a job at a record store, Ambient Soho; she booked clubs and parties, including events with a collective called telepathic fish; and she started working as a disc jockey.

In 1993, after working with the indie-rock label 4AD, Ms. Calix became the publicist for the equally independent Warp Records, specializing in electronic music. During this time she started building her own electronic music with a Mac computer and a sampler.

“The one thing that really influenced what I do was the lack of money,” she said. Computer music magazine in 2012. “I could never afford expensive sample packs and synths, so I looked for organic found sounds instead.” It’s funny, isn’t it? Lack of money limited the music I could make, but it also meant I discovered my own sound.

Ms. Calix married Sean Booth, a fellow musician, in the late 1990s, and they separated in the mid-2000s. Besides Mr. Holden, she is survived by her mother and sister, Genevieve Passamonte.

Warp Records executives heard of her music and signed her to the label in 1996. She chose to record as Mira Calix after it “sort of popped up”, she said at the Red Bull Music Academy in 2003.

“I wrote it, and it sounded good,” she added, “and I really like the phonetics. It sounded really good, and it sounded like a nice person.

The A-side of his first release, the 10-inch vinyl single “Ilanga”, was “Humba”; it ended with a looping vocal repetition: “Do the things people say you can’t.”

His recordings for Warp were adventurous and unpredictable. They can be loudly propulsive or meditative and ambient, sparse or dense, raspy or elegiac. She has also toured as a disc jockey alongside bands such as Radiohead, Autechre and Godspeed You Black Emperor!

But his interests have largely turned to multimedia works and site-specific installations, often in collaboration with scientists and visual artists. “I like to create the space where the music exists, and then you walk into it,” she told the website. Spitfire Audio.

“Chorus”, installed in Durham Cathedral in northern England in 2009, had speakers swinging on overhead pendulums, using custom software to control over 2,000 sound samples interacting with lights and movement. His work from 2013 “The sun is the queen of torches” was born from a collaboration with a laboratory that has created organic photovoltaic materials, sensitive to light and generating electricity. “Ode to the future”, in 2018, was based on ultrasound images of pregnant volunteers.

His last album, “absent origin” came out in 2021. It was a complex collage of his past and his ambitions. She drew from years of material she had saved on her hard drive: beats (including the use of her body for percussion), nature recordings, previous sessions with classical musicians, songs and favorite poetry, and curated news footage, including CNN’s coverage of the January event. 6 insurrection.

They all became the material for song-length pieces, sometimes danceable, carrying messages of feminism and resistance: exploratory, playful and unpredictable.

“The challenge in my work is to emotionally engage my audience, and music is an abstract art form,” Ms. Calix said in a TED Conference 2013. “I can’t tell my audience how they feel. I have to coax them, guide them, and hopefully attract them.

Alex Traub contributed report.

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