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The Irish composer Karen Power (*1977) deliberately seeks out linkages between instrumental music and quotidian sound environments or selected soundscapes. In so doing, she poses fundamental questions about the perception of sound in daily life, the relationship between noise and music, and the significance of concrete sounds for the compositional context. In relocating elk … by train (for bass flute and tape, 2010), for example, she subtly combines the warm, full tones of the flute with the noises that the instrument makes, due to its mechanics, when it is being played. The frequently inaudible sounds of the instrument thus become a concrete component of the work. A dialogue arises between the composed notation for the flute and the delicate sonic elements that arise while generating the notes.
The interweaving of instrumental sounds and everyday noises, as well as of acoustic instruments and electroacoustic elements (no chaos: only organised panic for orchestra and live electronics, 2011 and cows, coffee, birds, bees and a new room for double bass and tape, 2007) form the artistic core of Karen Power’s musical works. She does not simply investigate the characteristics and commonalities of instrumental and electroacoustic music; she strives for integrative strategies that acknowledge their differing potentials and unite them in the compositional work. This manifests itself in her multifaceted œuvre, which ranges from orchestral works, sound installations, soundscape compositions, electroacoustic music, music-dance projects, improvisations and experimental audiovisual projects, all the way to musical Happenings. For Karen Power, this diversity of genres is not merely programmatic; rather, it constitutes the root position of her practice, in order to ultimately dismantle the distinctions between what we commonly call music and what constitutes the rest of our acoustic environment. While »post-minimalist« techniques first sparked her compositional creativity, these increasingly broadened to include experimental and mixed-media concepts (e.g. in once upon a space for cello, bass clarinet, live electronics and dance, 2011). But Karen Power is not solely a composer, she is equally as much an improvising musician and an intermediary on music’s behalf. Quotidian and environmental sounds repeatedly come into play here, too, acting as catalysts for sound landscapes that are created live and that reveal the musicality of the everyday surroundings.
The connection between sound and music, between found and composed sounds, also constitutes the starting point for her current series of works with the Artists-in-Berlin program. In and along the Spree, in empty industrial buildings and modern architectural complexes. Karen Power pursues the usually unnoticed sounds at our doorstep and searches for the »unheard-of« in the urban environment. In solo or in ensemble with instruments, these found sound-objects ultimately become the focus of the compositional work. Has a »Symphony of Small Things « in a variety of media formats already announced itself?

Text: Fabian Czolbe
Translation: Andrea Lerner
Photo: Kai Bienert
Camera/editing: Uli Aumüller, Sebastian Rausch

Events by DAAD
Instruments of Ice (2015, UA)


once below (2015, UA)

Processed Reality

Hugging the Walls. A Tribute to Terry Fox.

Local Sound Art Scenes

Das Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD bei Ultraschall Berlin. Festival für Neue Musik

Coordinates IV - New Sonic Geographies

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