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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 Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson


Infrequent Seams



Biophilia Records





Lei Do Indigenato, 1914

From: Recognition
By Zeena Parkins


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