Drummer/percussionist Karen Stackpole started out as a rock drummer in the late ‘80s and became fascinated with improvised music and multi-media collaboration. She joined forces with SF Bay Area musicians, playing new music and stretching beyond established boundaries as well as working with dancers and experimental film. In 1991 she was exposed to the wonder of gongs (Paiste in particular) and immediately altered her trajectory to incorporate these incredibly versatile instruments into her musical vocabulary.
In her explorations of metals, she has cultivated some distinctive techniques for drawing harmonics out of tam tams with various implements: rubber mallets, felt and yarn mallets, ball chains, bass and cello bows, kitchen utensils, and other small objects. Karen specializes in dynamic soundscapes and textures, but has also contributed gong sounds to more conventional musical genres as well as contributing source material for film soundtracks.
She is active in the creative music scene and has participated in music festivals and performed solo in Seattle, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, and the Bay Area as well as collaborating with other gongists from the UK, Poland, and the US. Over the years she has played with Gino Robair, John Schott, Vinny Golia, Myles Boisen, Moe Staiano, Chris Heenan, Rod Poole, Steve Roden, Dean Santomieri, Le Quan Ninh, The Bay Area Chamber Symphony, Mark Growden, Malcolm Mooney, and others. In addition to solo work, she performs and records with various projects including Machine Shop: Live Amplified Gong Experience (a duo with electronics master, Drew Webster), Sabbaticus Rex, Ghost in the House, the improvising quartet Vorticella, the Francis Wong Unit, and the rock band Steel Hotcakes.