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 has been commissioned by RTÉ Lyric fm, Bozzini Quartet, Irish National Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Klangforum Wien, SCAW, Carin Levine, Sonar Quartet, Ensemble Mosaik, ConTempo, Ultraschall Festival, Quiet Music Ensemble, MikroMusik, Music Current, NMD Festival, Retro Disco, Isabelle O’ Connell and others. Other musical performances include: Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Modern, the Ulster Orchestra, Argento, Ensemble Mise En, Cathy Milliken, Kate Ellis + Mmm Trio. 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 string quartet @ ISCM, Beijing + at the International Rostrum with her piece for violin + Arctic Ice. 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; an upcoming release with Other Minds label + Quiet Music Ensemble of 3 large-scale works in 2023. Language Land Sea is a new piece commissioned by Lore Lixenberg that pairs human and nature through sound and image, which will tour from the summer of 2023. ...Antarctica calling...listen... is a new piece for RTÉ Concert Orchestra + Antarctica that asks us all to reconsider our dominance in the worlds most remote locations and will be premiered @ New Music Dublin in April 2023.
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.