Portfolio of Original Compositions (Karen Power)

  • Karen Power

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    My main aim throughout this PhD was to develop an electroacoustic musical language that would inform my instrumental language and expand my compositional horizon. This PhD was an opportunity to explore new compositional approaches and to develop a clearer understanding of new technologies and their application in pieces for instruments and for fixed media. This portfolio of work plots my compositional journey over a period of 5 years as a part-time PhD student and shows a gradual development of style in both acoustic and electroacoustic approaches. It also reveals a number of surprising directions, which I have explored in some of these works and which I hope to develop further in the future.

    This commentary deals with a total of seven compositions, which represent the body of research undertaken throughout this PhD. The pieces are presented chronologically and each individual commentary discusses aspects of the work in question and addresses broader issues, which I felt to be relevant at the time of composition, thus any discussions or viewpoints expressed in these commentaries are done so in this context. I do not always attempt to answer all questions that I pose in this document, as often they are more retrospective observations: I simply wish to highlight their relevance to this current body of research.

    In John Cage’s well-known essay "The Future of Music: Credo" he said:
    1 believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard. Photoelectric, film, and mechanical mediums for the synthetic production of music will be explored. Whereas, in the past, the point of disagreement has been between dissonance and consonance, it will be, in the immediate future, between noise and so-called musical sounds.
    (John Cage, Silence'. Lectures and writings by John Cage, (Weslyan University Press, 1961), 3/4).

    This 1937 prediction is particularly relevant to the works explored in this portfolio. Throughout this period of study, I believe I have evolved in a similar way to Cage’s predictions. In particular, I have turned to technology, for purely musical considerations, as a means of realising artistic goals that can no longer be met through acoustic means. To appreciate this development fully, it is important that I provide information about my compositional background, which I will begin to do in the first part of this introduction. (This topic is dealt with in more detail in the commentary on old fashioned chocolate fondue fountain.) With this information, one can see a clear evolution from the very first work right through to the final composition, some things just are, which reaches a point, to continue Cage’s quotation, where ‘The present methods of writing music, principally those which employ harmony and its reference to particular steps in the field of sound, will be inadequate for the composer, who will be faced with the entire field of sound’ (ibid., 27).
    Date of AwardSep 2009
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorMichael Alcorn (Supervisor)

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