Remembering Mira Calix, acclaimed electronic musician and visual artist: “I almost can’t believe how lucky I’ve been”

Mira Calix
(Image credit: Warp Records)

Acclaimed electronic musician and visual artist Mira Calix has died, her label Warp Records has confirmed. 

“We are devastated to learn about the death of our dear Mira Calix (born Chantal Passamonte),” said Warp in a statement.

“Mira was not only a hugely talented artist and composer, she was also a beautiful, caring human who touched the lives of everyone who had the honour of working with her.

“Mira has been a huge part of Warp’s family and history, as one of the first female artists signed to the label and releasing six albums from 'one on one' in 2000 to 'a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶ origin' in 2021.

“We are so proud of her immense creative output; her artwork, videos and music were a true reflection of what an innovative, pioneering and wonderful soul she was.

She pushed the boundaries between electronic music, classical music and art in a truly unique way. She will be terribly missed by everyone at the label, staff and artists alike.”

Mira Calix

(Image credit: Warp Records)

Born in South Africa, Calix was based in London, and received plaudits for both her albums and installations. In 2012, she was commissioned by Boris Johnson - then London Mayor - to create a sound installation to celebrate the London Olympics. Titled Nothing Is Set In Stone, this was situated in Fairlop Waters country park.

“Effectively, it’s a surround-sound piece in reverse,” Calix told Computer Music magazine in 2012. “We’re building a four-metre-high stone structure and, inside, there will be 24 speakers. When people move around the stone, it will subtly affect a series of sensors and that will alter what they hear. 

Discussing her creative workflow in the same interview, Calix said: “I’ve never aimed for a certain style or genre. The only thing that has really influenced what I do is lack of money. I could never afford sample packs and expensive synths, so I looked for organic found sound instead.

“It’s funny, isn’t it; being short of money limited the music I could make, but it also meant that I discovered my own sound. Thank God I’ve always been skint!”

On getting her break with Warp, Calix explained: “There was never any plan. The whole idea of me making music and being signed to Warp was… well, it all seemed a bit random, really. I’m not a trained musician, and I never considered myself a ‘musician’.

“I actually used to work at Warp. Obviously, I was interested in electronic music, so I bought a very early Mac and an Ensoniq ASR10 sampler, and just started making tunes using found sounds. That was the cheapest way I could think of doing it.

“By accident, somebody at Warp heard what I was doing, so they kicked me out of the office and gave me a record deal. Like I said, completely random and a bit bonkers, really.

“But that’s the beauty of this electronic and digital age. People like me - people with no real music training - can make music. It has opened doors that were only open for people who’d spent years learning to play the guitar or the keyboard. Like punk rock, [electronic music] levelled the playing field.”

Mira Calix

(Image credit: Warp Records)

Discussing her move into installations, Calix told Computer Music: “It was one of those completely-by-chance things. Around about the time of Eyes Set Against The Sun [her 2007 album for Warp], I got a call from someone who wanted me to write something for a dance-theatre piece. I wasn’t touting for work or anything… they’d just heard the album and asked if I’d be interested. 

“I delivered it on time, people seemed to like it and then another offer came and… that was kind of it, really. I was suddenly doing sound installations and theatre pieces. It still sounds weird when I tell people. I almost can’t believe how lucky I’ve been.”

Since her death was announced, tributes have been pouring in for Calix from across the electronic music community. We’ve posted a selection of them below.

Ben Rogerson
Deputy Editor

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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