A multi-disciplinary artist, producer/singer/songwriter/videographer Káryyn's work draws from the worlds of classical, pop, and electronic music. While her multi-octave vocals and intricate productions evoke the likes of Arca, Holly Herndon, and Björk, she established herself as a distinctive artistic force not long after one of her first projects, the opera Of Light, premiered in 2017. Her ambition only increased as time passed; her debut album, 2019's The Quanta Series, paid tribute to her Syrian and Armenian heritage while connecting the personal, scientific, and spiritual dimensions of her music.
Born into a Syrian-Armenian-American family in Alabama, Káryyn moved to Indiana when she was a year old. Growing up in the Midwestern countryside allowed her to develop her creativity and listening skills, and when she was seven, she began recording herself playing piano. When she was 10, she moved to Los Angeles so that her father, a doctor, could serve a larger Armenian community. Every summer, Káryyn and her family returned to Aleppo and Idlib, a city where their Syrian relatives owned a hotel and restaurant until ISIS took control in 2011. Inspired by her ancestors' strength — her great-grandmother survived the Armenian Genocide of the early 20th century as well as the death march to Aleppo — she began writing Arabic-influenced folk songs in her teens.
At age 16, Káryyn left high school and transferred to Mills College in Oakland, California, where she studied with the renowned composer Pauline Oliveros. The music Káryyn made at the time was confrontational and experimental, touching on jazz, punk, and electronic music and incorporating tape loops, samples, and wild vocals. However, she felt creatively unsatisfied, and after the deaths of two of family members in Aleppo, in late 2011 she moved to her sister's house in upstate New York to process her grief. For a year-and-a-half she created in private, drawing and writing songs about her losses that were just for herself. Eventually, she worked on commissioned projects that included vocals for the video game Beyond the Bounds.
In 2013, Káryyn moved to Berlin, where she continued to work on her own music and on the music for Of Light, an opera directed by her friend Samantha Shay and supervised by Marina Abramovic. The opera's April 2017 premiere made a fan out of Björk, who praised Káryyn's music in interviews. By this time, Káryyn was back in Los Angeles and ready to release her own music. In 2017, she issued a series of singles that were nearly seven years in the making — February's Quanta 1, June's Quanta 11, and October's Quanta 1:11 — on her own Antevasin label. "Moving Masses," a song originally written for Of Light, also appeared that year.
In 2018, she signed to Mute Records, which released the single Quanta 11:11 that November. The following February, she delivered "Tilt," a track that also featured contributions from producer Darren J. Cunningham and his A.I., Young Paint. Káryyn's debut album, The Quanta Series, which included previously unreleased tracks as well as her singles, came out in March 2019. ~ Heather Phares