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K Á R Y Y N: the healing power of music

Let this Björk-endorsed sound scientist regenerate your being.

How do we heal? If we’re to believe K Á R Y Y N, and we should, it’s through self-examination, making music—in her case, straight from the heart and inspired by quantum physics—and facing all our truths. In the past seven (!) years, the Syrian-Armenian American composer/singer has channelled hardship into celestial yet haunting hymns, which can now be heard on THE QUANTA SERIES.

“I accept that without darkness there can’t be light and vice versa,” she tells Glamcult, referring to the profound tragedies of growing up in war-torn Syria. “Music is vibration. And when a creator holds a strong emotion and or intention […] that energy is captured inside the recording. I see it in my own work and how people feel and respond to it. It’s so wild and incredible and exciting, and it’s exactly why I make music.” There’s much to be said about this musician and we can’t even begin to describe our awe. For now, simply let K Á R Y Y N regenerate your being.

While I’m thinking up my first question I must admit I feel myself falling short, as I can’t even begin to fathom the extent of deeply personal emotions that (in)formed your album. So I simply want to ask, how does it feel to finally have brought this record into the world? 

I feel ready. It feels like an ending and a beginning. Also, I’d just like to say that you haven’t fallen short in any way, if anything I’ve been wowed by your consideration. So, thank you.

What strikes me about your compositions, especially after reading your personal accounts, is the lightness that you’re able to bring forward after going through the dark. Could you elaborate on this? 

I imagine that the reason for this is because I accept that without darkness there can’t be light and vice versa. I’m unafraid of the truth and of the shadow, and I make my work from a place of potential and with the intention to shed light onto the more challenging experiences of being human. The theme of this interview is ‘Nurture’ and I must admit that you probably feel this way because I’ve spent many years wanting to bring a sense of lightness and hope where there is a sense of darkness and despair—I could only do this by nurturing myself first, before I could ever make art.

In an interview with Pitchfork you said: “I do feel that maybe the strength of my artistry is much bigger than what I’m uncovering in my present life.” Does this make being an artist and releasing music feel like a larger-than-life responsibility?

Somehow, no. In fact, I feel liberated by this notion because it means that it isn’t caught up in my ego as much. I can give my music everything I’ve got and then I can move on.

You’ve been supported by and compared to artists such as Björk. Who do you still look up to when it comes to making music?

That’s wild right? She’s been making and putting music out well before I was even born. I can’t be compared to her yet. I’ve got to put work out for another 25 years before then! Yes, I’m a woman and right now I make imaginative electronic music but I think it’s wild that almost any woman who does is almost always compared to her! Truthfully, I have so much respect for any musical artist who has put themselves fully and authentically into their work, those who’ve persevered and managed to also be good people along the way. It’s very easy to be wild and creative, to be prolific and ahead of the musical curve—but it’s really hard to be in that creative energy and also be someone who can inspire by their character as well.

I’m just not impressed by the illusions that exist in the entertainment culture. I’ve never been someone who puts any person on a pedestal because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to stand next to them. So, I guess I just have loads of respect for the artists who are working and hustling with heart. There is so much good music in the world and I look up to all my friends and peers who make it. Each artist has something unique to offer if we’re paying attention… you’ve really got me thinking here When I hear chain gang songs, I am in awe at the soul and utility that came from singing out of that need. It’s so powerful and I’m in awe of it. I look up and back at the likes of Blind Willie McTell and Robert Johnson. I look up to Alan Lomax for documenting all sorts of ordinary people singing their hearts out.

ALEPPO is one of your most discussed tracks, and you’ve been very open about the memories that caused you to write it. I was wondering: were you ever able to bring this track and your memories back to Aleppo—literally or figuratively? 

Aleppo is always with me. It’s alive in my mind. It is such an important place for my family and me. I haven’t been back since 2010 but have plans to go very soon! It would be a dream to play at the amphitheater in the citadel one day. Imagine! But the Armenian community has almost been eradicated there. So many of my friends and family have left. We shall see…

Do you believe music contains, or can potentially contain, a healing power? 

Of course. Music is vibration. And when a creator holds a strong emotion and or intention when they make it, that energy is captured inside the recording, absolutely. I see it in my own work and how people feel and respond to it. It’s so wild and incredible and exciting, and it’s exactly why I make music.

Continuous experimentation is at the heart of your music practice. When do you consider one of your creations/tracks complete? 

This might sound crazy but I know it’s complete when it hangs like a balanced mobile. There can’t be any more motion, colours, lines, or curves added to it. It just floats on its own without its need for me to hold it. It’s a journey asking everything of you creatively and you give it. Then, you just move on.

The theme of our current issue is ‘nurture’. What does this term mean to you? 

Nurture is to be mindful & gentle with the parts that deserve cultivation and attention to develop.

Does this apply to the relationship between music and yourself? 

Yes, absolutely. I’ve always felt that art can be healing but also healing is healing and without the second part I wouldn’t have much to say. Music is where I can share what I’ve found out in my processes of nurturing my mind, my intentions, my spirit, my visions, my body, my hopes. I’ve spent my adult life nurturing my inner child, inner artist. Without nurturing this part of myself, I wouldn’t have been able to be creative.

You’ve previously said that you once lost hope in your artistic career and were on the brink of giving up. What made you go on? And what advice would you give to artists who feel stuck or unnoticed? 

Wow, I could give a master class on this! I gave up on “making it” and “being successful” and put all of my energy into being so inspired as a person that it freed me to actually be creative. I stopped focusing on only myself and poured my energy into lifting up ‘other’ people, listening and paying attention to the world around me. And it filled me up with joy! I realized that I was part of everything around me, and that particular joy made me feel like a child. When I reached my inner child everything changed. I was free to create without fear. I encourage you to find joy and freedom in your creativity. Be creative without the expectation of a result. Let what you are making uncover itself. Be the one who births it. Be an artist when no one is looking. Do it because you have something to say or offer. You have to cultivate a state of worthiness, you have to recognize yourself before anyone else will truly notice you. Forget “becoming someone”. There’s no such thing.  You already are someone.

If you’re stuck, there is a reason and the multiverse is asking you to pay attention so that you can develop and grow from it. I encourage you to stop trying and pushing against resistance. Go where you are lead.  Let your innermost self guide you to what is next. If you can’t feel an innermost sense, find that sense first before you go on. That sense will guide you when there is a lot of noise around you. If there is absolutely nothing else for you to joyfully do in the world, then take the time to nurture your talent without the purpose of sharing what you uncover. Develop trust in your taste and develop strong intentions. Work daily on your craft. You won’t always feel inspiration but I promise you that if you bring discipline to your creativity, at some point it’ll begin to flow more freely. Be curious about everything other than music. This will free you and test you. Then when and if it feels right, bring what you discover to the music and then to the world. If you are deeply inspired, you’ll inspire all of us.

Words by Leendert Sonnevelt
Photography by Derek Hutchison