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Artist Gets MRI Scan And Hears Beautiful Music

July 27, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Neuroradiology
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Mira Calix had an MRI scan, and the noises made her think of a string quartet.

Calix is a British singer, DJ, and composer. Several years ago, doctors thought she might have a brain tumor. So, she explained in a BBC video, “I went for an MRI scan, and no one had warned me how loud it was going to be.”

How loud was it? “It’s like standing next to a jet engine on a runway.”

She had intended to listen a CD of electronic music during the scan. “But the machine swallowed the music.” And so, she decided:

If I’m ever in this machine again, I’m going to bring a string quartet because I thought that the rhythmic patterns with a string quartet would make something wonderful.

They did certainly make something interesting: a musical composition called Brainwaves. Calix collaborated on it with another British composer, Anna Meredith. Meredith has never had an MRI scan, though she tried:

I was going to have one, but because I have dental implants, they weren’t going to let me because there’s a chance, ’cause of the giant magnet, they might ping out, which sounds a bit scary.

Yes, having dental implants “ping out” of your mouth certainly sounds just a bit scary. However, Meredith did get to stand a meter away from a machine during a scan, “and the noise was unbelievable. I’ve never heard anything like it. For someone working with sound, it’s such a gift to be given something like that to work with.”

You just missed a performance of Brainwaves last Friday at a historic London theater called Wilton’s. But the second video on this page lets you sample a few minutes of the music, which blends the string quartet with a variety of electronic sounds. I thought it was surprisingly, even achingly, emotional, but I probably enjoy contemporary classical music more than most people.

Does it, as the Wilton’s Web site says, evoke the “exhilarating sonic and emotional experience of undergoing a brain scan”? Judge for yourself. You’ll definitely recognize the MRI influences. As for exhilaration …

* * *

We have CME discounts this week on our Facebook page.

And if you followed us on Twitter, you’d have known about Brainwave yesterday. Click “Follow” and see what we uncover today.

Related seminar: CT/MRI of the Abdomen and Pelvis


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One Response to “Artist Gets MRI Scan And Hears Beautiful Music”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » MRI Scanner Doubles As A Musical Instrument on December 20th, 2013 at 10:24 am

    […] we mentioned in 2011, an MRI experience inspired the South African-British composer Mira Calix to co-create a set of […]