The Kaje talks Olympics to Mira Calix

Mira Calix, or Chantal Passamonte to her friends and family, is a name that needs to be known. Having to date released five albums through Warp Records and won British Composer for her composition “My Secret Heart”, it is little surprise that the acclaimed musician has been selected to sculpt a new musical experience for the London Olympics. Curiously titled “Nothing Is Set In Stone”, The Kaje jumped at the chance to find out more…

“Nothing Is Set In Stone” is part of the “Secrets: Hidden London” programme-can you tell us a little bit more about the sound sculpture?

It’s a monolithic stone sculpture made up of metamorphic rock called Gneiss. Sound is set in the stone. The structure holds a piece of music, which  is in motion, the audience influences by seeking it out. for me the object is at once – enduring; the stone, and ephemeral; the sound.

What are the defining features of Nothing Is Set In Stone?

It is of course a sculptural work, although I look at it as the physical manifestation of a song.  by walking around the form, moving closer and further away and putting your ear to the stones, you create your own version of the piece.

The audience’s movements trigger subtle changes in what is emitted from the stones. It’s for the audience to create the piece of music as a whole and to enjoy its aesthetic nature both visually and sonically. With that, I hope it gives them an opportunity to consider and reflect on the notions that brought me to create the piece. The idea that the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus so eloquently described as ‘never being able to step in to the same river twice’.

How did you set about exploring London sonically and sculpturally?

I didn’t. Although this piece is  very much for London, the sounds  are of nature and the human voice.

What for you is the essence of London?

I think for me, it’s the immense diversity of it’s inhabitants. It’s  a truly global city. Like all cities, it’s the people that make it what it is.. Yes, the architecture make it different to New York or Paris, or anywhere else in the U.K. or abroad, but it’s really how it’s used by the people, how they fill the spaces. The sight and the sounds of them that make it unique and make me love it.

What was your starting point for designing ‘Nothing Is Set In Stone’?

This idea of creating a stone sculpture made up of many stones that appear to be magnetised rather than to build a more classical stone wall.

‘Nothing Is Set In Stone’ stems from a standing stone sculpture at Fairlop Waters, how did the sculpture inspire your sound?

This very much goes back to what the piece is about, my original fascination  and inspiration was with removing a single pebble from a beach or river bank and how when you take one pebble home, you slow down time for this stone. The erosion process. however, for the stones left behind, time speeds up. This paradox of the speed of time is the source of inspiration for both the sound and visual aspect of the work. All the sound reflect these observations of fluidity in nature.

‘Nothing Is Set In Stone’ immediately alludes to a fluidity of structure-is this how you see London? Or city life in general?

Yes I do in both the city and our more rural environments.  But I also see this on a very personal level – our only constant is change, life is motion.  In a city those changes are sometimes slow, sometimes deceptively quick or  glaringly obvious – a new building, a new road, but in a person, in your own life, observing the changes is often more illusive, especially to oneself.

If you had to define the inspirations for your work, what or who would you say they were?

Nature is a big inspiration for my work in general. But individual works do have very different sources of inspiration, extremely diverse and certainly not all from nature. I’m an observer, so it may be a cliche but inspiration comes from all around.

There are of course many artists working in many mediums, whose work has affected me, and I find that it’s my emotional response to a work that inspires me the most. I am in pursuit of creating emotional responses through abstraction.

Your work has undergone a transition from electronic to classical undertones-do you see all composition as exploration?

I do. It’s a really good question, for me, the transition seems completely natural, it’s all the same thing, just the tools and  presentation of the work has evolved or perhaps opened out. But my impetus remains the same, which is to move things forward and write good music.

What do you have in store post ‘Nothing Is Set In Stone’?

I’m working on a new score for Alfred Hitchock’s Champagne. The BFI are restoring all 9 of his silent films and I’m lucky enough to be working on one of them I’m a big Hitchcock fan. It’s extremely challenging but of course a very different process to creating ‘Nothing Is Set in Stone’ and a much more traditional.  The premiere will be this September 2012.

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