MRI scan provides inspiration for Mira Calix's electro-string quartet

By Charlotte Cripps

Sunday 23 October 2011 04:00

After undergoing an MRI scan, electronic musician Mira Calix decided to compose an electro-string quartet based on her experience. The work covers a range of emotions, from fear to relief. Calix, who has DJed live for Radiohead as well as won a British Composer award in 2009, has been mentored by the eminent neuroscientist Professor Vincent Walsh for her latest project.

"I'm really trying to convey the experience of being in an MRI machine, sonically and emotionally," says Calix. "It sounds like a jet engine. Then like a techno track with its pulsating beats. If you've been in one for health reasons, it's a hair-raising moment, tied up with a mixed bag of emotions. This machine means something to me. It saves people's lives. It really helped me – I feel an attachment to it."

The work is part of a week-long residency at Faster Than Sound, where, five times a year, artists are given the space to experiment in different ways. The created pieces are then premiered in Aldeburgh Music's Hoffman Building in Snape, Suffolk. Calix's work is one of three pieces exploring the connections inspired by the brain and sound in Brainwaves. There is also a sculptural work by design studio, and an electronic piece by Anna Meredith.

Calix found the process of working with a scientist for the first time fascinating. "Professor Walsh was able to explain the mechanics of the machine and advise me that my idea of a composing a quartet fitted well with the way the brain neurotransmitters work," she says.

18 September at 8pm, Hoffman Building, Snape Maltings, Suffolk (

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