Karen Power: wonderous worlds within / without: interspecies gossip

Saturday 2 March – Saturday 27 April 2024
Karen Power: wonderous worlds within / without: interspecies gossip | Saturday 2 March – Saturday 27 April 2024 | SIRIUS | Image: Karen Power. Photograph: Frida Sjögren | almost-profile photo of the composer, who is looking from left to right; just the head and top of right shoulder; dark-blue woolly hat with headphones over them; blurred background of autumnal (probably) trees

Karen Power is a Cork County–based composer, performer, and educator. Her compositional approach engages with the natural world through sound. The works challenge the distinction between what we consider ‘music’ and all other sonic existence. wondrous worlds within / without: interspecies gossip is a composition presented in the form of an installation. It features a ‘collage’ of sounds Power has collected during her travels over the past decade to the Arctic, the Amazon, the Namib Desert, the Australian Outback, New Zealand, and Antarctica – scenarios as much removed from human existence or interference as possible.

wondrous worlds within / without: interspecies gossip is Karen Power’s first solo show in a museum or gallery context. The work is commissioned by SIRIUS through an Arts Council Commissions Award 2021. This exhibition is curated by Miguel Amado, director, SIRIUS.

LAUNCH EVENT: Karen Power in Conversation with Miguel Amado • SIRIUS, Saturday, 2 March, 3 – 5pm • Free; no booking required

Karen Power and the SIRIUS director Miguel Amado discuss Power’s approach to composing, her ecological interests, the work’s themes of ‘active listening’ and site specificity, and the role of collaboration in her practice.

Listening is at the core of Karen Power’s methodology. Her field recordings, made in remote locations around the globe, unearth and reposition the environment’s sonic qualities. Through listening, Power practices an expanded sense of wonderment and appreciation for nature.

Power interrogates and seeks to transform our uneven, often extractive relationship with the natural world, and thereby advance a more equitable human-nature association. Her sound databank might be considered a form of environmental activism, preserving as it does a natural world ever more deeply impacted by climate change.

Power presents her compositions as staged orchestral and/or ensemble pieces, solo instrumental pieces, installations, and happenings, among other arrangements. Her process often involves collaboration with other artists, including filmmakers and dancers, putting sound in dialogue with moving images or bodies in movement.

The installation wondrous worlds within/without: interspecies gossip relates seemingly disparate sonic elements, for example the shimmering of Australian cicadas and the birdcall of an Irish wren. It also leans away from direct physical associations of sound in favour of new, more wide-ranging connections. The work ebbs and flows, as layered sonic elements interact via eight speaker channels distributed across a gallery.

wondrous worlds within / without: interspecies gossip also considers the architectural and social characteristics of its presentation site, the SIRIUS building in Cobh. The soundscape dialogues with that of Cork Harbour, which includes water, animals, and church bells, among other sonic elements. In this way, Power’s work establishes links between this place and other territories, bringing together local and faraway experiences and narratives.

Power has been commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra, Dublin; RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Dublin; Klangforum Wien, Vienna; and Quiet Music Ensemble, Cork. She performed with Pauline Oliveros, David Toop, Mazen Kerbaj, and The Quiet Club. Her albums include is it raining while you listen (Farpoint Recordings, 2014) and Human Nature (self-released, 2020). She holds a PhD in composition from the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen’s University, Belfast, and lectures at University College Cork.

Saturday 2 March – Saturday 27 April 2024
The Old Yacht Club
Cobh, Co. Cork
Telephone: +353 21 481 3790
Opening hours / start times:
Wednesday – Saturday, 12:00 – 17:00
Admission / price: Free

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