Karen Power : How Radio



[…] Ce programme pour websynradio offre un aperçu de la manière dont j’envisage la radio, toutes les pièces sélectionnées nous amènent à reconsidérer l’écoute et mettent en lumière mes propres influences et ma pratique. […]
Karen Power

[…] First of all I think about radio and the different ways we all listen to and receive radio. Then I think about radio time and spaces. How we perceive time when being stimulated visually and aurally. How time simply passes or is filled. Our memory of radio and its ability to evoke comfort in a time before mass and constant sound. Increasingly, my thoughts are of the every day and how we choose to engage or disengage with life, places, situations, people. How we are and how we could be. Even within such limitations the options were overwhelming, so I have restricted my choices to those from my home country of Ireland.
This program for webSYNradio offers a taste of what I feel firstly works for radio, in the sense that all of the pieces ask us to reconsider how we listen, and secondly influences and offers insights into how I work. The choices are weighted with my own work simply because I think this work is relatively new for French ears. Other works show extremes of listening that I find fascinating in themselves but also languages that lie outside the filed of music itself and draw on other artistic streams.
The main thread is that of field recordings and the idea of nature verses maybe a kind of nurture within sound. As a composer from a particular tradition, I was trained within an artificially constructed sound space with rules and guidelines. Yet, the natural world around me knows no such rules. What happens when we bring those two worlds together. What choices or priorities do we make and how does our hearing of both worlds change.

greenery_john-godfrey karen power
Karen Power, Greenery, image_John-Godfrey

hearspace (2014) – by Karen Power – Interactive Radio Art Work – 31’05’’

hearspace is a new interactive piece of radio art composed for and through Irish radio by Karen
Power. On March 23rd @ 9pm RTÉ lyric fm acted as a live conduit, through which Karen Power
composed and performed a new composition for radio based on the idea of exploring the sounds of a
particular time, place and memory. hearspace explores, isolates and uses specific RTÉ sound
archives as a means of grounding listeners to a particular time, place and memory. These voices or
sounds of Ireland, which will be combined with Karen’s own sounds recorded throughout the world;
from The Arctic to Laos, will bring listeners on real and imagined sonic journeys from their past and
into their future. This work will also feature archival materials from other European Radio stations
who have been invited to submit their sonic snapshots.
Radio exists without visual cues, allowing listeners to form their own unique relationships with
sounds from the privacy of their kitchen, bedroom, cow shed or shower! RTÉ Lyric fm and Karen
Power invite you to share your listening experiences with us and become a live part of our premier
performance of hearspace. When radio is being received in a space it simply enters and shares space
with everything else around it. (Unlike a piece of concert music, which expects silence and your full
attention.) The result is that radio sounds move frequently and freely between the background and
foreground of a space. Karen wants listeners to consciously consider this fact and to share your
chosen radio listening space with us, which in turn may be added to the composition during this
unique live broadcast.

Litany – by Bernard Clarke (Irish Radio broadcaster and artist with RTE Lyric fm) 12’20’’

Despite more than three decades of initiatives and hundreds of millions spent on treatment, antidrug
campaigns and the like, the serious drug problems concerning the likes of Heroin and Cocaine
are getting worse in Dublin today.
Litany is a radiophonic rendition of three poems fused as one by poet Karl Parkinson. Karl grew up
in some of the heroin-infested areas of the city and has documented the deaths of friends, the
destruction of communities, the rise of drug barons and drug cartels, and the absolute misery
inflicted on ordinary people going about their lives.
I heard Karl reading his work at a Poetry recital. I contacted him afterwards and we recorded some
of his poems. I then took three of them and fused them into Litany.
For the sound of the piece I dipped into the RTÉ sound libraries for samples; and I took a dog’s bark
and ran it through various synths and samplers. I set out to render the dark, heroin brown of the
poem in sound of the city that the politicians have abandoned. The hysteria did the rest. Bernard

These next two pieces are performed by the group Quiet Music Ensemble.

Quiet Music Ensemble is a Cork-based Experimental Music group led by composer and
performer John Godfrey. The word ‘quiet’ in its name is intended to conjure both the sense of
hushed and of peaceful; its music is a restrained meditation on sound itself. The group consists of
some of the top solo and chamber performers in the country: John Godfrey, founder/ director/
electric guitar; Seán Mac Erlaine, clarinets/saxes; Roddy O’Keefe, trombone; Ilse De Ziah, cello;
Dan Bodwell, double bass; Alexis Nealon, sound engineer. It draws its repertoire from diverse artistic sources, including composers of music, sound artists and visual artists, and specialises in improvisation,
guided or free. It performs in unconventional spaces and contexts, and specialises in extended
QME has premiered commissioned and other new works from world-renowned composers such as
Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, David Toop, Jennifer Walshe, Karen Power, Mark Applebaum,
Christopher Fox, Martin Iddon and others. At its launch festival in 2008, QME premiered 5 new
works and appeared alongside world-renowned composer/performers Pauline Oliveros and David
Toop. Other festival appearances have included the Dublin Electronic Arts Festival 2009, Hilltown
Festival of New Music 2011 and 2012, Sonic Vigil Cork many times, Huddersfield Contemporary
Music Festival 2013, Poznan Music Spring (Poland) 2016, and the Deep Minimalism Festival
(London, UK) 2016.
In early 2017, QME will appear in the New Music Dublin festival and give the world premieres of
three especially commissioned works by Irish sound artists Danny McCarthy, Mick O’Shea and
Irene Murphy.
Website: www.quietmusicensemble.com
CD: http://farpointrecordings.com/cds/qme–the-mysteries/

hand tinted (2014) 12’30’’ by John Godfrey

Composition: ‘hand tinted’, for Quiet Music Ensemble; field recordings, sinetones, 2014 Recording:
• Original: CD “The Mysteries Beyond Matter”, Quiet Music Ensemble, Farpoint Recordings,
2015, TRACK 4
I became intrigued by the idea of a ‘tinted’ soundscape. The idea comes from an old photography
technique in which monochrome photographs were coloured by hand. In this piece, I tint with
electronic and performed sound three soundscapes. The recordings were made by Karen Power in Si
Phan Don and Luang Prabang, Laos in 2013. This piece was completed in January 2014 and
premiered shortly thereafter.
What fascinates me about this is that the subject and content of a tinted photograph remain
unaltered, but even the slightest tint makes us see them differently: sepia colouring, which makes us
see even a brand new photograph as ‘old’, is a blatant example. Tinting has a subtle yet profound
effect on the way the photograph makes us feel about its subject, and so offers us a new way to see it;
we gain a deeper perception of the photograph from the experience. I guess things like the effects in
Instagram alter the way we see photos too, but the unsubtle nature of the alterations makes it feel to
me as if the picture is being forced to be something else: the filter, rather than the image, becomes
the thing.
I have become very interested in super-minimalist material. The work of Eliane Radigue has recently
been a major influence. I wondered what would happen if I asked QME to improvise with
something very small; in this piece, we choose between a few pitches on which we improvise using
only vibrato. Sustained sine tones at the same pitches and extended delays allow us to use the vibrato
to produce all kinds of effects, from subtle beating between tones to texturally dense clouds centred
on the main pitches. The result sits far in the background, colouring – tinting – our sense of the
soundscapes to the fore. (John Godfrey 28.02.2015)

instruments of ice (2015) – by Karen Power 4’40’’

extract from a 40 minute work – Live premier recording @ DAAD Gallerie, Berlin, May 28th,
instruments of ice (2015) is a sonic conversation between musicians; Quiet Music Ensemble and the
Arctic. The piece invites listeners to explore and musicians to respond to a real and imaginary sonic
environment derived entirely of field recordings captured above, inside and deep below the Arctic
ice. The aural score/ quadraphonic playback part attempts to merge this extraordinary places quiet,
vast and isolated exterior with its explosive and sonically rich underworld. The materials and
structural layout focus on the huge sonic spectrum of ice/water and its ever-evolving shapes,
contours and layers. Water in all its forms, its hypnotic flow and instantaneous speed changes and
jolts, are interpreted here. The pacing and flow of this work is informed by my memory of a brief,
but intense time spent in this place. My memory of the way things moved, the rapid changes, the
light, the ‘loaded’ silence and the endlessness inform all aspects of this pieces composition. Quiet
Music Ensemble are a unique experimental group who ‘specialise in practicing a restrained
meditation on sound itself’. In this work musicians are asked to shift focus between the very delicate
tinkling of ice and the mass movement of glacier shifts. They prepare for this work by; listening to
the aural score, reading some text, watching a reflective documentary made by the composer and
looking at photographs. All preparation aims to ‘set-the-scene’ so that when the sound enters we can
already feel a sense of its context.

is this on? by Karen Power commissioned by RTE Lyric fm – extract of 13’33’’ from full piece of 38’30’’

In 1927, Cork City Gaol hosted one of Ireland’s earliest radio broadcasts, the simple sound of
cartwheels on cobbles. RTÉ lyric fm has commissioned is this on?, a new work for radio from
renowned Irish composer Karen Power to mark the place of that first broadcast and to pay tribute
to the profoundly significant contributions by women to Ireland’s turbulent history in the early
twentieth century. It will be performed by Karen in concert along with works by Yoko Ono, John
Godfrey and Cat Lamb played by the Quiet Music Ensemble, and broadcast live from 8pm on Nova
with Bernard Clarke on RTÉ lyric fm.
is this on? combines; field recordings recorded by Karen from all over the world, RTÉ Lyric fm
archival materials + inaudible sounds from Cork City Gaol itself.
We together will move between real and imaginary worlds, times and spaces. We are here in this
beautiful space, which creates 1 unique listening environment. Radio audiences are in a variety of
other spaces surrounded by other contexts – whether they be passing traffic in a car, the kettle
boiling in the kitchen. This piece is designed to trigger sonic connections with these known and
unknown spaces. To allow you time to dream in and through sound. To bring you on a journey
through Irelands past voices and times. To connect you to each other and at the same time highlight
our individuality in the way you receive sound. Each of our listening experiences are largely governed
by our unique context, or memory of a place, a time, a sound and these unconsciously direct our
hearing of everything. All I am doing as the composer of this piece is choosing to highlight specific
sounds that surround us all of the time and that have some connection with our history as Irish
people. i hope that through these decisions you can embark on 1 of many potential sonic trips. The
music is designed to 1st root us in this stunning gaol space and then gradually move away into a
realm of real but reimagined spaces. Every so often I remind you of where you started from, but
even this grounding changes based on where else we’ve been.
I ask that you consider this space, consider the mode of radio and its unique ability to reach out and
connect us. I ask you to really listen.

fried rice, curried chip and a diet coke (2007) – by Karen Power – earliest work…. 10’30’’

Karen released her first CD in 2014 also with Farpoint Recordings: is it raining while you listen
This is the final track on that album and marks an important early interest in language and words as
sound objects.
fried rice, curried chip and a diet coke was written in answer to a call, from RTÉ lyric fm, for
electroacoustic works to represent Ireland at the International Rostrum for Electroacoustic
Composition in Lisbon, Portugal. RTÉ selected the piece, which resulted in its premiere taking
place at the 11th International Rostrum for Electroacoustic Music in December 2007.
I had become very interested in using the sound of words and syllables as musical material. I wish to
draw on Trevor Wishart’s view in support of my approach to words and language in the context of
this piece. ‘I am going to propose that words never ‘mean’ anything at all. Only the people ‘mean’
and words merely contribute toward signifying peoples’ meanings.

A DAAD / Mikromusik Commission
once below (2015) by Karen Power

is a double quadraphonic sound installation with intermittent soloists, which focuses on time, place and our ever-changing contexts of hearing. The entire work is based on recordings made in a bunker underneath Gesundbrunnen Station, Berlin. Most of the sounds recorded are not audible to our naked ears. They are hidden and yet feel very real and present. These sounds themselves adhere to their own rhythm and time, in which we play little part.
This work brings many aspects of Karen’s work together in a very special and unique venue; Kapelle
der Versöhnung (Chapel of Reconciliation). Here, the two sound installations are naturally separated
through the chapel dome offering audiences the opportunity to experience a creative manipulation
of hidden and audible from this special world below. 4 soloists will ‘drop-by’ to perform a short
composed piece in the outer space at numerous times throughout each day, which offers yet another
context, another time, another space that changes how we hear everything.
Each performance is unique, as each performer brings his/her own context, approach and balance
between composed and improvised materials to the same composed piece. This is a short piece
which is set against a much longer installation. Therefore at least one element will be altered at each
performance and leaves a sonic trace long after the performance itself has faded.
Soloists: Michelle O’ Rourke (Voice), Erik Drescher (Glissando Flute), Johnny Chang (Viola),
Rishin Singh (Trombone)

green-pond_john-godfrey karen power
Karen Power, Green Pond, image_John-Godfrey

Première écoute : à partir du jeudi 24 novembre à 20h jusqu’au 8 décembre 2016 même horaire.

synradio karen power



Karen Power est une compositrice irlandaise, elle développe une pratique multiple du field recording et de la composition, intégrant instrumental, électronique et soundscape.

A versatile, enthusiastic and well received Irish composer Karen Power seeks to stimulate, engage and interact with audiences. Her work utilises two primary sources; acoustic instruments and everyday sounds, spaces and soundscapes. Karen’s output is diverse – both in its approach and delivery – and her primary aim is to capture and translate the essence of an idea through any artistic means necessary. For example, recent projects have been presented as orchestral works, sonic installations, collaborations between sound and dance, image and experimental film, free improvisations and musical happenings. Everyday environments and how we hear everyday sounds lies at the core of Karen’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. Karen treats her works as continual learning experiments with each new piece simultaneously absorbing something from its predecessor and breaking new ground for what is yet to come. Some exciting recent projects include; Gorging Limpet, which is a collaborative project between sound and experimental film, a commission from UK pianist Andrew Zolinsky – focusing on the subtle individual tuning of pianos, The Arctic Circle Residency, hearSpace (2014) – an exploration into the world of Radio with a new interactive radio art composition, a large-scale commission for Bozzini Quartet, a DAAD Artist-in-Berlin Award for 2015/16 residency, Instruments of Ice (2015) for QME + Arctic Ice, once below a double installation + soloists based on Berlin’s underground bunkers and veiled babble (2016)for Ensemble Mosaik + underwater Spree River sounds + most recently a fluxus-style work in a major train station where players and environmental sounds became 1. is it raining while you listen – CD released by Farpoint Recordings www.farpointreocrdings.com



Podcast Karen Power websynradio Podcast: Ecouter le programme de Karen Power

Podcast websynradio Karen Power S’abonner au podcast – podcast subscription

  • http://sounds.synradio.fr:8000/synradio.mp3
  • webSYNradio dedicated 24/7 to all strains of outsider arts