Zeena Parkins

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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 play, prepare or otherwise enhance the sonic capabilities of her harps. She accurately describes her harp as a "sound machine of limitless capacity" and has used, among numerous household objects, alligator clips, bows, jar lids, oversized metal bolts, guitar pedals, and the Eventide Ultra-Harmonizer controlled by MAX/MSP in order to achieve her extended palette. The groundbreaking work Zeena has done with her unique electric harp began with a prototype instrument that she co-designed with one time bandmate Tom Cora and then with master luthier Ken Parker in 1987. The instrument was further refined in1989 by Mr. Parker to include a stronger tuning pin placement. Later, other improvements were made by Doug Henderson to the whammy/bass string side of this stereo instrument with an ebony fingerboard. This innovation is completely unique in the harp world and allows Zeena access to sonic possibilities never before conceived of. In it's current state of development, the electric harp has 6 humbucking pickups-5 Bill Lawrence country rhythm pickups and one Seymor Duncan . There are two outputs which are processed separately. 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 (imaginary filmscores played by a septet that includes multiple strings and percussion), orchestral works commissioned by Bang on a Can Spit Orchestra, 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, especially, 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 as a soundcrafter for dance has inspired her to explore unpredictable orchestrations and more ambitious sonic presentations including: her bubble wrap score, for $ 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, Thurston Moore, and Pauline Oliveros, Special projects have included touring and recording with Bjork (Vespertine), Yoko Ono, Butch Morris (International Comprovisation Ensemble), Elliott Sharp (Psycho~Acoustic, Orchestra Carbon), Tom Cora (St. Jeanne Des Abattoirs , Skeleton Crew ), Ikue Mori (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 scores of music festivals in Europe, South America, Japan and NYC 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 Actuel Festival in France, the Festival Mimi in Arles and the Victoriaville New Music Festival in Canada. International radio performances have been broadcast on ORF in Austria, VPRO in Holland, the BBC in England and on many US college radio stations. Zeena has been an Artist-in-Residence at Harvestworks/Studio Pass and at STEIM in Amsterdam. Zeena has been funded by numerous organizations with commissions from New York State Council of the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust and Meet the Composer. In 1997, Zeena was honored with the prestigious award from the Foundation for Contemporary Performing Arts and won a Bessie, the NY Dance and Performance Award for her score for Jennifer Monson's Sender. Zeena curates shows at home and abroad. When she first moved to NYC she co-curated the popular Accordion Summits with fellow accordionist, Billy Swindler and on occasion booked shows for the tiny and seminal A Mica Bunker She organized a four day international multi-media festival in Wels, Austria, called Z-Axis, she curated a month of New Music shows at Tonic in New York City and with Sylvie Courvoissier, co-curated the music program at the Swiss Institute/NY for their year 2000 season. Zeena has been a guest lecturer/ visiting artist at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for two years. She designed a History of Sound Art class that was offered by Tufts and the Museum School, the first class of its kind. She has also lectured at the Musem School in Chicago and taught workshops at Bennington College in Vermont and at Movement Research in NYC. http://www.zeenaparkins.com