Zeena Parkins

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Zeena Parkins
Parkins in April 5, 2008
Parkins in April 5, 2008
Background information
Born1956 (age 65–66)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
  • Musician
  • composer
Years active1980s–present

Zeena Parkins (born 1956) is an American composer and multi-instrumentalist active in experimental, free improvised, contemporary classical, and avant-jazz music; she is known for having "reinvented the harp".[1] Parkins performs on standard harps, several custom electric harps, piano, and accordion. She is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow and professor in the Music Department at Mills College.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Born in 1956 in Detroit, Michigan, Parkins studied at Bard College and moved to New York City in 1984.[3]

Her work ranges from solo performance to large ensembles.[2] Besides standard and electric harps, her work also incorporates Foley, field recordings, analog synthesizers, samplers, oscillators and homemade instruments.

She has recorded six solo harp records[2] and recorded and performed with Björk,[4] Matmos, Ikue Mori, Fred Frith, Tom Cora, Christian Marclay, Yoko Ono,[5] John Zorn (including in Cobra performances),[3] Chris Cutler, Pauline Oliveros,[6] Nels Cline,[7] Elliott Sharp,[8] Lee Ranaldo,[9] Butch Morris,[10] Tin Hat Trio,[11] William Winant,[12] Anthony Braxton, Bobby Previte,[13] Courtney Love's band Hole,[14] and others. She has also been a member of a number of experimental rock bands, including No Safety,[15] News from Babel,[16] and Skeleton Crew.[3]

Parkins has often worked with dance companies and choreographers, including the John Jasperse Company, Jennifer Monson,[17] Neil Greenberg, Emmanuelle Vo-Dinh, BodyCartography Project, and Jennifer Lacey, and has won three Bessie Awards for her achievement in composition for dance.[2] She has also provided scores for filmmakers including Abigail Child,[18] Isabella Rossellini,[19] Cynthia Madansky,[20] Mandy MacIntosh, and Daria Martin.[2] Parkins received a 1997 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.[21]


As leader[edit]

Release year Title Label Additional personnel
1987 Something Out There No Man's Land Sam Bennett, Cora, Wayne Horvitz, Christian Marclay, Jim Mineses, Ikue Mori, James Staley
1992 Ursa’s Door Les Disques Victo Mori, Chris Cochrane, Sara Parkins, Maggie Parkins
1993 Nightmare Alley Table of the Elements
1995 Isabelle Avant S. Parkins, M. Parkins, Lisa Crowder
1996 Mouth=Maul=Betrayer Tzadik S. Parkins, M. Parkins, Mark Stewart, Jim Pugliese ft. Carsten Dane, Mattthias Breitenbach, Andy Hass
1998 No Way Back Atavistic
1999 The Opium War: A Radio Play Einstein Records Text by Ana María Simo; ft. M. Parkins, Ikue Mori, Joe Trump, Cochrane, David Shea, DJ Olive, DD Dorvillier, Jonathan Bepler, Tenko
1999 Pan-Acousticon Tzadik S. Parkins, M. Parkins, Stewart, Pugliese, ft. Trump
2004 Devotion Table of the Elements
2006 Necklace Tzadik Doug Henderson, Eclipse Quartet: S. Parkins, Sara Thorblade, Joanna Hood, M. Parkins
2010 Between the Whiles Table of the Elements Luciana Achugar, Levi Gonzalez, Eleanor Hullihan, S. Parkins, Pugliese
2012 Double Dupe Down Tzadik Mori, Marclay, Shelley Hirsch, Okkyung Lee, S. Parkins, M. Parkins, Staley, Matthew Welch, David Watson, William Winant, Pugliese
2013 The Adorables Crytogramophone Parkins, Shayna Dunkelman, Preshish Moments, ft. Deep Singh, Dave Sharma, Kristin Slipp, Danny Blume
2016 Three Harps, Tuning Forks & Electronics Good Child Music Nuiko Wadden, Kristen Theriault, Megan Conley ft. Mori
2018 Captiva Good Child Music Matthew Ostrowski


with News from Babel
with Ikue Mori
  • Parkins & Mori, Phantom Orchard (Mego, 2004)
  • Phantom Orchard, Orra (Tzadik, 2008); ft. Cyro Baptista, Makigami Koichi, Josh Quillen, Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje
  • Phantom Orchard Orchestra, Trouble In Paradise (Tzadik, 2012); ft. Sara Parkins, Shayna Dunkelman, Ratkje, Maggie Parkins, Hild Sofie Tafjord
  • Phantom Orchard Ensemble, Through the Looking Glass (Tzadik, 2014); ft. Sylvie Courvoisier, S. Parkins, Ratkje, M. Parkins
with No Safety
  • This Lost Leg (RecRec Music, 1989); Parkins, Chris Cochrane, Doug Seidel, Ann Rupel, Pippin Branett
  • Spill (Knitting Factory Works, 1992); Parkins, Cochrane, Seidel, Rupel, Tim Spelios
  • Live at the Knitting Factory (Knitting Factory Works, 1993); Parkins, Cochrane, Seidel, Rupel, Spelios
  • Live in Italy (Cuneiform Records, 2021)
with Elliott Sharp
  • Elliott Sharp / Zeena Parkins, Psycho–Acoustic (Victo, 1994)
  • Psycho-Acoustic, Blackburst (Victo, 1996)
with Skeleton Crew
Other collaborations

As instrumentalist[edit]

With Björk

With Alex Cline

With Nels Cline

With Fred Frith

With Maybe Monday

With Yoko Ono

With Marc Ribot

With John Zorn

With Tin Hat Trio

With Bobby Previte


  1. ^ Ross, Alex (March 27, 1993). "Zeena Parkins Avant-Garde Harpist Roulette". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Zeena Parkins". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Santoro, Gene (July 15, 1990). "Harpists Without Halos Test Their Wings". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  4. ^ Masters, Marc; Currin, Grayson (April 16, 2010). "Keeping Indie Weird". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  5. ^ "Yoko Ono: Blueprint for a Sunrise". AllMusic.com. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  6. ^ "Pauline Oliveros / Zeena Parkins / Michelle Grabner (Lucky Kitchen and Fundação de Serralves)". Institute for New Connotative Action. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  7. ^ Walls, Seth Colter (August 6, 2016). "Nels Cline: Lovers". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  8. ^ Watrous, Peter (June 13, 1991). "Elliott Sharp and Carbon The Knitting Factory". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  9. ^ Pareles, Jon (December 24, 1992). "Lee Ranaldo, Ikue Mori and Zeena Parkins Roulette". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  10. ^ Pareles, Jon (November 16, 1989). "Free Butch Morris Concerts". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  11. ^ Zwickel, Jonathan (August 16, 2004). "Tin Hat Trio: Book of Silk". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  12. ^ "Zeena Parkins and William Winant Perform Music for Minor Planets". BAMPFA. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  13. ^ Watrous, Peter (September 4, 1989). "Violating the Pop Structure". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  14. ^ Harris, Chris (April 17, 2020). "Hole's 'MTV Unplugged' At 25: It 'Ended Up Not Very 'Unplugged' At All'". Billboard. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  15. ^ Pareles, Jon (January 24, 1988). "No Safety, A Quintet, at P.S. 122". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  16. ^ Leone, Dominique (February 13, 2007). "Out Music #2". Pitchfork. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  17. ^ Kourlas, Gia (February 20, 2018). "From the Prairie to the City, Dancing to Invoke the Dawn". The New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  18. ^ Teshigahara, Tristan (2014). "Perils, Mutiny and Mayhem by Abigail Child". desistfilm. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  19. ^ "Green Porno" (PDF). Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  20. ^ "Cynthia Madansky". CFMDC. Retrieved March 8, 2021.
  21. ^ "Zeena Parkins". Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Retrieved March 8, 2021.

External links[edit]