Rania writes story-telling music with themes of womanhood, motherhood, and expressing deeply personal feelings. Her compositions shift between tonal, atonal and pan-tonal writing by using free harmony, with singable melodic and rhythmical patterns derived from her Greek-Cypriot tradition. She is particularly interested in creating quiet soundscapes.
Rania’s mission is to engage new audiences with contemporary music through the power of storytelling. She writes contemporary classical music for soloists and ensembles, instrumental performers and vocalists.
In June 2022 she organised a series of 3 concerts in Cyprus for the project Stories, Odes and Chants and the premier was held in Kasteliotissa Mediaeval Hall in Nicosia, Cyprus. A coming-of-age story about a woman on a quest to find a mystical spider weaving a magic mantle set in a fairytale-olden time in Cyprus is interlaced with 8 songs she set to music, 5 of which are poems by 4 living Cypriot composers, 2 are folk poems and 1 is an free arrangement on a traditional song.
With Canadian Soprano Sarah Parkin, she is planning a project where together they will write six new pieces inspired by womanhood touching topics of career progress, social differences between the sexes and being a mother. The first preview of the project will be on 15th of December at Hundred Years Gallery in London at 1:00pm
Sound and Inspiration
She draws inspiration from social topics dealing with womanhood and motherhood, and deeply personal feelings like compassion or frustration, including mental health issues like anxiety and addiction. Being a mother has profoundly affected her music. In her early works, her music frequently created aggressive sounds and passionate atmospheres. Now she finds herself searching for the little quiet moments in music that allow the listener to independently evoke sounds that are implied, but go unheard. The audience becomes an active listener and creator in the music, with their own unique experience.
Her Greek-Cypriot roots are an important part of her music. Whether it is the charming piano 4-hand piece Awaiting written in ⅞ time (‘kalamatianos’) or a song like 21 Brides written in 9/4 (zeibekiko), or a more intricate piece like Silver Lines for clarinet, flute and narrator which uses historic themes, a traditional lullaby and a well known march.
Use of voice and language in my music
The musicality of different languages intrigues her and she especially investigates this in Greek and English as well as different dialects existing within the two. When she writes vocal music, she plays with it by either following the natural flow of a verbal phrase or by pushing against it, using fractions of words and creating vocal sounds to increase emotional tension.
Her challenge when working with a text is to create a balance between the music and the narration so that we understand the story and the music feeling tied to it. She achieves this by assigning different characters from the stories she is working with to each instrument (for example, the father figure represented by the trombone in her piece ‘The Death’ commissioned by Skipton Camerata, 2020) or by exposing the subtext (lullaby melody in ‘Silver Lines’ November 2019 premiered by the Shadanga Duo in Hjørring, Denmark at the Ode to the Wind festival) while the narrator articulates specific events.
Her devotion to language and the voice began during her years as a music student at the Ionian university in Corfu, Greece, and continued throughout her studies, up to and including my MA year at the University of York, UK. During these years she tried to fill in the gaps between language and vocal sounds, inspecting how in switching between Greek and English text, the melody and also the mood of the pieces changed, experimenting with the listener’s perception when creating sonar spaces with vocal sounds and with language, jazz song or opera, narration or electronic manipulation of speech.
During her adolescent years she started picking her hair and that developed into trichotillomania, an urge to pull out ones hair. Now she has strategies in place when the urges appear but during stressful periods the mental challenge becomes greater. This habit became the reason to write ‘Tillein, for an intimate percussionist”. It includes two narrated sections whispered by the percussionist while playing on a gong, (ideally) with their back to the audience. In this way, sounds and words might not be heard by all audience members and will unconsciously complete the missing information. It recently had a performance in Indiana, USA by Dr. Alexandros Fragiskatos at PASIC (Percussive Arts Society International Convention).
The bilingual (Greek and English) lyrics for the piece ‘Statue of the Earth, for singing viola’ are inspired by texts about the ancient Greek goddess Hestia. The composition of the lyrics has to do with the sound of the words ‘sss, rrr, fff,…’ – becoming like a third instrument to the viola and the voice. It was commissioned by Katherine Clarke, a viola player in London specialising in new music for singing violist.
Virtual Sound installations
During lockdown she launched a series of virtual workshops and virtual sound installations (Vibrating Air, Reach and Same-Same-Different) for musicians and non-musicians to bring people together and create a community that exists online for only a couple of hours – with a goal to be both spontaneous and inclusive.
She studied Musical Studies and Composition for Performing Arts at the Ionian University in Corfu, Greece. She specialised in classical and contemporary composition; counterpoint; harmony orchestration with Joseph Papadatos; composition for performing arts with Dimitra Trypani and Dimitris Maragkopoulos; and History and Composition of Electronic music with Andreas Mniestris.
She enriched her music studies by learning the harpsichord and basso continuo with Katerina Michopoulou; jazz saxophone; jazz theory and harmony with Dimos Dimitriadis; piano, music psychology; music education and music philosophy as well as history of music, ear training and choir.
She completed her MA in Composition at the University of York, UK, in 2013 with supervisor Dr Thomas Simaku. She had her piece ‘Sketches for three female voices and a lonely percussionist’ work-shopped and performed by The Juice Vocal Ensemble in February 2013 during the weekly composition seminars for postgraduate students at the University. She collaborated with the students of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and performed in installations in parks and houses in Leeds. I received masterclasses with distinguished composers and performers Silvina Milstein, Roger Marsh and Martin Suckling.
Other musical ventures
As a media composer she wrote music for the short film ‘A Different Time’ produced by Shinmoro Films, for the gaming apps Broko Loco and GemBee produced by Created Informed. She self-produced animated music videos about relationships with others and with one-self which are available on YouTube.
She worked with the Early Years in Nurseries in South London and with KS1 & KS2 in primary schools in Newham. During her sessions, teaches music, musical instruments and engages children in music creativity. She teaches through investigation, experimentation and personal learning. You can find her blog and series of lesson plans specifically made to use for babies, toddlers and young children in nurseries here.
Good to know
She lives in Kent with her family. During the weekends you will find her and her family doing parkour around the city and then relaxing for a picnic in a nearby park.
Piano | Saxophone | Harpsichord
She is also a keen dancer with a diploma in Latin American and Ballroom Dances from the Greek Federation of Dance.
Reach out via her Contact page
Copyright © Rania Chrysostomou 2022