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Q&A with Mira Calix

Ahead of the release of Curved Form (No. 11), I spoke to Mira Calix about the ideas and inspirations behind her remix.

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First of all, could you tell me a little bit about how you created the track – what elements of the original were you drawn to and why?

In general, I find remixes difficult, because if you really love the original - which I did - you don’t want to ruin it! I listened to the piece as was, but I didn’t immerse myself in it deliberately, I wanted to feel free to take it down a new path. For the past year, I’ve really immersed myself in the world of collage, and by extension of my current mindset - I deployed a lot of the same methodology. I was quite free and impressionistic with the original cello lines, I really cut into them.

I feel like your remix really nicely mirrors the trajectory of the original – both have this sense of forward motion, taking you through constantly evolving landscapes but without ever revealing when one section ends and another begins. How did these different soundworlds come about, was it a natural evolution from one to the next or something more planned?

I liked that forward motion and the shape of the original, as comes naturally to me… I reached for my rhythms, which always sound vaguely like a box of bits falling down the stairs.. and from there things just unfolded. I’m a great believer in a sound asking for what it needs next.

A lot of how I think about my music is influenced by the works and writings of sculptor Barbara Hepworth and artist Bridget Riley. In your remix, you’ve name-checked Hepworth’s Curved Forms and   Riley’s Movement in Squares and, for me, the organic, overlapping sound of the cello feels very Hepworth and the distinct, angular beats feel very Riley. Was there any direct inspiration from these artworks in the piece and, if so, how did that play out?

Yes and yes. I’m a big fan of both too, maybe leaning towards Hepworth - I always have in my mind’s eye that sculpture on the lawn at Snape Maltings when I think of her. Funnily enough, I didn’t know or think I knew you were into Riley, I had watched a documentary years ago and saved a little clip - ‘movement in squares’ as soon as I heard the track and saw the title, I thought of that and fished it out an old hard drive. It became the core of the remix.. and nope, I can’t explain why, just felt right and going on what you’ve said above, it clearly was.

I really enjoy your use of speech samples in your work – something so human being heard in such a digitally altered state has a really disorientating effect on me. What’s your interest in using text and speech in this way and how do you hope it will affect the listener?

I like the rhythm of it, the humanity in the imperfect voice and the kind of dirt of recording in a casual way, I tend to use a lot of stuff just recorded on my phone. In the old, old days, I carried a small tape recorder everywhere, then a minidisc (ancient) and finally a trusty little digital Olympus dictaphone. I like just capturing sound, like taking a photo, which I do all the time. I’m a natural archivist.. long before the days of social media and smart phones. Of course, it’s something now so many of us do, but it’s often the accidental beginning and ends of the thing you think you’re recording that turn out to be the gems! I call them my piffle. There’s a lot of piffle in my music, and so now a little bit on yours too!

Finally, is there anything in particular that’s inspiring you at the moment and how is it changing the way you work?

Ah yes, I think really examining how diverse visual artists both previous and present have approached the act of cutting and pasting, of skirting the edges to both discard and reveal materials has been a huge influence and inspiration. When things breakdown, we who survive get to rebuild with the fragments.

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Curved Form (No. 11) features the title track performed by Gabriella Swallow alongside remixes by Mira Calix, Sarah Davachi and I. It's out on Friday 6 August and can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp now.