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Zeena Parkins

Zeena Parkins, multi-instrumentalist, composer, improvisor, well-known as a pioneer of the electric harp, has also extended the language of the acoustic harp with the inventive use of unusual playing techniques, preparations, and layers of digital and analog processing. Zeena makes use of anything within reach as a possible tool with which she can enhance the sonic capabilities of her harps. She accurately describes her harp as a "sound machine of limitless capacity" and has used, household objects and hardware store finds, including: alligator clips, nails, rubber erasers, rubber tubing, felt, bows, metal candy lids, oversized metal bolts, hair clips, glass jars, discarded strings, as well as more conventional: leslie cabinets, guitar pedals, and numerous other digital processing hardware and assorted and varied software.

Zeena's unique vision is one that seeks to both meld and highlight opposites and extends to her work for her ensemble compositions. She has blurred boundaries between improvised and composed, acoustic and electric, digital and analog, and processed and concrete sounds to create many of her pieces. She achieves this engagement of contrasts by using instrument blending and morphing, the recombination of cut-up sounds to form odd and breathtaking soundscapes, and scoring and formal constructions derived from extra-musical sources. This process is evident in ensemble works such as the Trilogy written for her Gangster Band (a septet that includes strings and percussion and electronics), orchestral works commissioned by Bang on a Can, orchestrations for the Kitchen Blend Group and her on-going project of re- constructions of Debussy's La Mer.

Zeena has received numerous commissions to provide scores for film, video, chamber orchestras, theater and dance. She has a strong commitment to provide sound for dance and has created over 30 scores for American and European choreographers. Zeena's work for dance has inspired her to explore unpredictable orchestrations and more ambitious sonic presentations including: her quadraphonic bubble wrap score for Money Shot and a 60- speaker installation built to hang over the audience in "(voice tells) 14 tiny pictures, no more no less," both for Jennifer Lacey; her live mixes and assemblages for Neil Greenberg and the numerous live music scores, both improvised and composed she has performed with her long-time collaborator Jennifer Monson.

Ms. Parkins has appeared on over 70 CD's and in hundreds of concerts in both large and small spaces all over the world. A lightning bolt of a performer, Zeena is a sought after collaborator, performing with Jim O'Rourke, Nels Cline, Lee Renaldo, Kaffe Matthews (Weightless Animals), Thurston Moore, and Pauline Oliveros. Special projects have included touring and recording with Bjork (Vespertine, World Tour and Family Tree Tour), Tin Hat Trio (Book of Silk), Yoko Ono (Blueprint for a Sunrise), Don Byron, Butch Morris (International Comprovisation Ensemble), Elliott Sharp (Psycho~Acoustic, Orchestra Carbon), Ikue Mori (Phantom Orchard, B Side, Hex Kitchen), John Zorn (Cobra, Bezique, Darts, The Bribe) and Fred Frith (Soloist in Traffic Continues , Graphic Scores, Skeleton Crew and Keep the Dog). Zeena has appeared in dozens of music festivals in Europe, South America, Japan and the States including: Lincoln Center Out- of-Doors, Lincoln Center Festival 2000, The Serious Fun Festival, ExperImenta in Buenos Aires, The Music Merge Festival in Tokyo, The Moers Festival in Germany, Willisau and Tacklos Festival in Switzerland, the LMC Festival in London, Vancouver Coastal Jazz and Blues Festival, Musique Action International in France, the Festival Mimi in Arles, City of Women Festival in Slovenia and the Festival Musique Actuelle in Canada.

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Album Review

Ingrid Laubrock: Monochromes

Read "Monochromes" reviewed by Mark Corroto

Saxophonist & composer Ingrid Laubrock and her partner, drummer Tom Rainey self-released an ongoing series of spontaneous duets, the Stir Crazy Episodes, recorded during the pandemic lockdown. They were most likely a kind of pressure release mechanism for both artists. With Monochromes, Laubrock heads in the opposite direction by commissioning four musicians to pre-record tape pieces based on her notations, both conventional and graphical; these form the foundations for Laubrock and three different collaborations to improvise over. The single 40-minute ...

Album Review

Glass Triangle: Blue and Sun​-​lights

Read "Blue and Sun​-​lights" reviewed by John Sharpe

The transatlantic trio of electric harpist Zeena Parkins, saxophonist Mette Rasmussen and drummer Ryan Sawyer, working under the moniker Glass Triangle, reunites for Blue And Sun-Lights. It is the second release as a group following an eponymous debut recorded in 2019. The band brings together a unique set of experiences--downtown sass from Parkins, European free jazz from Rasmussen and post-punk attitude from Sawyer--and from them generates something beyond category in a program of ten off-the-wall studio encounters. Rasmussen ...

Liner Notes

Butch Morris: Current Trends in Racism in Modern America

Read "Butch Morris: Current Trends in Racism in Modern America" reviewed by Howard Mandel

When a full house of ardent downtown music followers flocked to the old Kitchen, a performance loft on Broome Street in Manhattan's artsy Soho district on the cold night of February 1, 1985 to hear Current Trends in Racism in Modern America by Lawrence Douglas “Butch" Morris--I don't recall if it was advertised as “Conduction No. 1"--no one knew what to expect. At that time, as now, Butch was an inspired and productive presence on a diversified music ...

Album Review

Sara Serpa: Recognition

Read "Recognition" reviewed by Jerome Wilson

A lot of people have started to come to grips with shameful parts of their national heritage in recent times. In America, that has meant protests against displays of the Confederate flag and monuments to Confederate Civil War generals. For Portuguese-born vocalist and composer Sara Serpa, dealing with her heritage has taken a more personal form with Recognition, a multi-media work dealing with Portugal's history of colonial oppression and subjugation of native peoples in Angola. The piece has ...

Album Review

Myra Melford, Zeena Parkins and Miya Masaoka: MZM

Read "MZM" reviewed by Troy Dostert

Three world-class musicians whose long paths had yet to intersect, pianist Myra Melford, electronics wizard Zeena Parkins and kotoist Miya Masaoka finally team up for MZM. It's a potent, concentrated set of fully-improvised pieces that highlight the trio's ability to craft something wholly new while retaining each of their unique musical personalities. The album was first released by Infrequent Seams in 2017, but it's getting a reboot here. Most of the ten tracks range from three to six ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Blue and...

Relative Pitch Records



Intakt Records



Infrequent Seams



Biophilia Records


Current Trends in...

Sound Aspects


Lei Do Indigenato, 1914

From: Recognition
By Zeena Parkins


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