Karen’s compositions utilise two primary sources; acoustic instruments and everyday sounds, spaces and soundscapes. Her works are experienced as concert music, sound art, expanded instruments, real+imaginary sonic environments and as multi-sensory moments.
Everyday environments and how we hear everyday sounds lies at the core of Karen Power’s practice with a continued interest in blurring the distinction between what most of us call ‘music’ and all other sound. She has found inspiration in the natural world and how we respond to spaces we occupy. She continually utilises our inherent familiarity with such sounds and spaces as a means of engaging with audiences. Resulting works challenge the listeners memory of hearing while simultaneously shifting focus and presenting new contexts for such sounds.
In 2009 Karen completed a PhD in acoustic and electroacoustic composition at SARC (Sonic Arts Research Centre), Belfast, with Prof. Michael Alcorn. Throughout her PhD, Karen’s works focused on the commonalities and individualities of both acoustic and electroacoustic composition aiming to develop a more integrated language, which acknowledges and utilizes such strengths.
Karen's practice has included field recording elements since 2012. As a recipient of a DAAD fellowship, she began a large and experimental in of enquiry, which revolves around her development of aural scores + parts as alternate methods of communication with performers within the context of working with sounds/materials from outside of the Western Art Tradition. Specifically, in bringing performers and environmental sounds/places together so as to temporarily alter the shared performance/listening environment. In this 5 year period she has created works for ensembles, soloists and multi-roomed wordless opera/performative installations.
Karen values development time and has been in receipt of global residencies such as; The Arctic Circle, The Banff Centre + Array Music, Canada, The Guesthouse, Ireland, UCDavis, California and in 2015 she received a DAAD Award enabling residence in Berlin for 1 year. She has also been composer-in-Residence with Galway Music Residency, The Model Art Gallery + Music Generation. Karen's work has been commissioned by RTÉ, Bozzini Quartet, SCAW, Carin Levine, Sonar Quartet, Ensemble Mosaik, ConTempo, Ultraschall Festival, MikroMusik, Music Current, NMD Festival, Retro Disco, Isabelle O’ Connell and others. Other musical performances include: RTÉ Symphony Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Modern, the Ulster Orchestra, Argento, Ensemble Mise En, Cathy Milliken, Kate Ellis, Mmm Trio and Quiet Music Ensemble. She has been awarded national and international awards and honorary mentions for her work and has represented Ireland internationally on a number of occasions, most recently with her strong quartet @ ISCM, Beijing. Karen’s installation work and her interest in field recordings has taken her music across many genres and art mediums including: video, dance, film, painting, sculpture and glass. This cross-arts approach has enabled some of her more open-time music to be presented in spaces like galleries, parks, churches, warehouses and even a gaol, which offer audiences choice in how and when we listen.
Some exciting recent projects include; Gorging Limpet, which is a collaborative project between sound and experimental film, hearSpace - an exploration into the world of radio with an interactive radio art composition, Instruments of Ice (2015) for QME + Arctic Ice, once below a double installation + soloists based on Berlin’s underground bunkers, a fluxus-style work: those are the dangers of round vegetables in a major train station where players and environment became one, voices from hidden places for BAM Festival, Germany, location location location for New Music Dublin + Invitation to Wander, a multi-roomed walk-through wordless opera/performance installation for Cork Midsummer Festival.
Karen is an active improviser, who specialises in using environmental and everyday sounds/places as catalysts for constructing new sonic spaces. She performs as both a soloist and as ensemble member with notable artists as; Pauline Oliveros, David Toop, Mazen Kerbaj, Quiet Club, Strange Attractor, Ute Wassermann and John Godfrey.
As an educator, Karen lecturers part-time at tertiary level, but is specifically interested in creating new music and sounds with children through active workshops, which allow children to explore, create and perform their own compositions without monetary or class restrictions.. She has developed an early years program Natural Creators, which first harnesses, then develops, children's natural, intuitive + open explorations in a safe environment through improvisation, listening + play.
In 2017, Karen became chair of Sounding the Feminists, a collective seeking equality in music across Ireland.