In the early 1980’s, CYRNAI was created by Carolyn Fok as a teen experimenting with a drum machine built by her father along with second hand instruments. She also simultaneously played in numerous San Francisco ‘peace punk’ and industrial bands (from 1983-1991), including Treason, Trial, Rhythm and Noise/Sound Traffic Control and others.
She released Charred Blossoms vinyl / EP, distributed by Rough Trade, performing all instruments, sound effects and created a new form of recording and mixing which became known as ‘Experimental’.“Without knowing the ins and outs of mixing and engineering, she came up with her own unorthodox recording techniques…there’s also something undeniably free and unencumbered about these strange tunes” – Paul Simpson, All Music.
Carolyn won a scholarship to The Academy of Art College San Francisco and moved into a family property which provided an excess of space to develop art and music, and located across the street from the college. However, the space was mostly decrepit for years and a long insidious time of isolation ensued, yet the pursuit of creativity became an equally insidious endeavor. She released 1985 Parts of The Insomnic Wheel on Ladd/Frith label on cassette, with various compilation releases. Then 1986 ‘Hypno-Seizure’, and two versions of “To Subtle-Drive” 1989/1990 cassette.
In 1996, CYRNAI transformed with the early analog to digital evolutions, between tape and computer sequencing music, and released her album CYRNAI Transfiguration, featuring avant-garde guitarist Elliot Sharp, included a full-length CD accompanied by an 80-page book of paintings, dream logs, illustrations, and writings.
2018 saw the release of Carolyn’s massive unreleased recording archive of 100+ albums currently available online memoirofsound.com.The archive includes cassettes, reel to reels, rare childhood recordings, computer files, which encompasses a remarkably large collection of her hidden music history, linearly as a musical diary of 40 years. The beginnings of childhood stories somehow preserved through years between moves, to bands, early 1980’s analog synthesizers and drum machines, effects, cassette street recordings from San Francisco to Egypt, that gradate to midi sequences of disco or hard industrial customized sound designed tracks, to field recording from Cambodia, England, or Lourdes France. These ongoing endeavors are a realization that the work and her life were one woven pursuit with any new works to become additive.
With the release of the 100+ album archive on memoirofsound.com, a limited 6-LP Box Set of 1980-1990 official releases containing obscure tracks, booklets and a 7” 45 inside was released in 2018. “She is possibly the first woman to create analog sounds from homemade electronic equipment alongside found objects like raw metal and plastics. ” – JC
Following, Cherry Red Records released a compilation Third Noise Principle: Formative North American Electronics 1975-1984, Various Artists with CYRNAI contribution a track, “Max Pale Red”, along with others including Philip Glass, The Residents, Steve Roach, Ministry, and others.
CYRNAI performed at MUTEK 2019 Festival San Francisco, spoke at a MUTEK panel “The Future of Musical Instruments’,Recombinant Festival—San Francisco unique billing after Morton Subtonick, Black Lodge—Los Angeles, El Club—Detroit unique billing Suzanne Ciani, Interval, 10 Speed Guilotine, JAXX etc.
When the pandemic hit shortly after, CYRNAI public activity paused, while working on a film documentary, new work, and new collaborations including CineChamber in San Francisco, a 10 screen surround installation panoramic audio/visual performance.
Carolyn Fok is also a renowned visual artist. Her work won First Prize at the Philippe Charriol Foundation’s (Hong Kong) annual competition, leading to exhibitions sponsored by Movado Watch Company, and shows alongside original masterpieces by Van Gogh, Chagall, Dali, Renoir, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Monet, Rosenquist, and others.
Carolyn Fok has won sound design awards by AXIEM and OMNI.