Haroon Mirza's Muse Music

The Venice Biennale Silver Lion winner on the music that gets him in a creative mood
Haroon Mirza (top left), 'The National Apavillion of Then and Now' at Venice Biennale 2011 (right) and Kraftwerk (bottom left)
Haroon Mirza (top left), 'The National Apavillion of Then and Now' at Venice Biennale 2011 (right) and Kraftwerk (bottom left)




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It’s Friday and time for another Phaidon Muse Music playlist. This week it’s chosen by one of our favourite artists Haroon Mirza, who's chosen 10 songs to soundtrack your upcoming weekend.

Haroon describes himself as a composer of visual and acoustic material. In his work he uses art historical references to investigate the perception of space - both visual and auditory. His work manifests itself in many guises, from computer-generated photorealism to self-referencing video and sound installations.

In them, he explores the connections between socio-cultural systems such as religious faith or club culture and their relationships to music. If you have a Spotify account you can hear his choices here but first take a quick read of what Haroon has to say about them.

“I guess the most obvious thing is I kind of make music but in a very unconventional way. I spent most of my childhood wanting to make music and never found a way of doing it that I enjoyed. When I started doing art digital synths were coming in. The sound wasn’t physical enough for me. I studied painting originally. In the end I got interested in sound as a medium. Sound appeared in my work as a by-product and that took over as a driving force as a reason to make things. So then I found this meeting point where what I put into the world as a visual artist meets the acoustic. I tend to sit on that threshold.”

Neil Young – Heart Of Gold When I was studying at Goldsmiths my housemate had the record and wanted it converted into mp3s so I started listening to it. It became the soundtrack to my MA at Goldsmiths. It is an incredible song. Neil Young is rock 'n' roll.

Mark Fell – Multistability 5-A I’m not sure how he’s made it. He’s obviously developed a system to make the track. It’s like scribbling with sound, like a Cy Twombly painting; it’s all very glitchy with short electronic sounds.

Public Enemy – I Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya Man Good old skool rhythmic hip hop break beats. It’s where it began and what that sound turned into is interesting. Public Enemy were massively confrontational yet now they are a mainstream black act. Before them there wasn’t any hip-hop crossover. There was stuff like White Lines but that had an anti drugs message so there was a reason for it to be mainstream but not Public Enemy.

µ-ziq – Roy Castle This is a really particular and such a raw sound that builds up into something crazy. At the time it was released it didn’t fit into any genres. When you listen to it now you can feel it’s a little bit drum and bass, a bit down tempo techno, slightly dubstep and very lo fi. The sound and the drums and all the electronic sounds are very raw - not clean but distorted. It’s harsh, raw sounding and not at all produced.

Kraftwerk – Numbers I have this on a vinyl single. It’s one of those tracks that always sounds fresh and could be brand new (it was recorded in 1981), so crystal clear and well produced. Like a lot of the music I’ve chosen it has some kind of influence on me but I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint it. But it has some resonance to what I do. If I thought long and hard enough I could pinpoint it, but it’s such a vast thing music. Everything leads to another thing, it’s so subliminal.

Philip Glass – Metamorphosis One Minimalism! Basically what can be done with very few notes. I’ve recreated it for two pieces of work. With Radio DJ it was bringing two disparate styles of music and making them into one. Whereas with the Current Climate piece it was just a tonal and mood thing and the tone of those keys and bars set in space. It was more experiential.

John Williams – The Cantina Band It’s the song in Star Wars. It’s quite a low-brow thing, and completely not John Williams, but it’s quite discursive in a way because it’s so out of the ordinary. He probably made it because it was a very specific scene and it gave him a very specific idea – what would an alien band be playing on a run down planet? And out of that idea came this. It’s actually a really smart and impressive piece of music.

The Doors – Riders On The Storm It’s a got a real darkness and conjures up so much visual imagery. But it’s not just the lyrics, it’s that instrumental bit in the middle – in it I see all kinds of things: night time, mountains, dark streets, it’s a visual piece of music. My dad used to play it in the car so it has many memories images associations from my childhood.

Herb Albert – Rise Another song my dad played when I was a kid and it just has an amazing bass line. I think partly it’s to do with the Notorious BIG song that sampled it later on and gave it more emphasis. It’s a really simple motif but it has real drive to it. 

Bob Dylan  - Knockin' On Heaven’s Door It has a similar romanticism that Joy Division had. It’s all about death but it’s embracing it and idolising it. Somehow the fact it’s been covered to many times is a testament to that. Simplicity always works.

Listen to Haroon Mirza's Phaidon playlist on Spotify

You can also listen to these creatives' Phaidon playlists:

John Pawson
United Visual
Simon Fujiwara
Samuel Wilkinson
Alex Hartley
Brian Griffiths
Michele Howarth Rashman
George Condo
Martin Boyce
George Shaw
Karla Black
Piers Secunda
Mark Titchner
Chris Johanson
Edmund de Waal Elizabeth Peyton
Wilhelm Sasnal
Nathaniel Mellors
Richard Harrison
Antony Micallef
Roger Hiorns

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  • Defining Contemporary Art/
  • Defining Contemporary Art/
  • Defining Contemporary Art/
Rising from the ashes of modernism and encompassing a staggering diversity of new forms, the twenty-five-year period beginning in 1986 is one of the most vibrant episodes in the history of art. It is also one of the least understood. Interpreting recent events is seldom easy, but making sense of today’s advanced art — decentred, complex and contrarian — requires innovative techniques and new approaches.

As the first comprehensive account of this period, Defining Contemporary Art is a groundbreaking study of the emergence of art as we now know it. The book’s radical approach to art history starts with its structure. Assembled and written by eight of the most highly respected curators working today, each of whom has both witnessed and shaped the period in question, Defining Contemporary Art tells the story of two hundred pivotal artworks from the past quarter century. These works, from the well-known to the quietly influential, share one achievement: they have irrevocably changed the course of art. Collected here, they provide a chronological depiction of art in our era, a mosaic in which readers may find their own patterns.

Defining Contemporary Art


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Art Cities of the Future
Salon to Biennial
Younger than Jesus

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