Zeena Parkins

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Zeena Parkins
Zeena Parkins with Cosa Brava, Jazzit, Salzburg, Austria, April 5, 2008
Zeena Parkins with Cosa Brava, Jazzit, Salzburg, Austria, April 5, 2008
Background information
Born1956 (age 64–65)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
GenresExperimental, free improvisation, avant-garde
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
InstrumentsHarp, accordion, keyboards, omnichord
Years active1980s–present
LabelsTzadik, Good Child Music, Relative Pitch, Table of the Elements, Case Study Records
Associated actsNews from Babel, Skeleton Crew, Cosa Brava, John Zorn, Ikue Mori, No Safety

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 Atavistic 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
with Elliott Sharp
  • Elliott Sharp / Zeena Parkins, Psycho–Acoustic (Victo, 1994)
  • Psycho-Acoustic, Blackburst (Victo, 1996)
with Skeleton Crew
Other collaborations
  • OWT (Parkins & David Linton), Good As Gold (Homestead Records, 1989)
  • Joane Hétu / Diane Labrosse / Parkins / Danielle P. Roger / Tenko, La Légende De La Pluie (Ambiances Magnétiques, 1992)
  • William Hooker / Lee Ranaldo / Parkins, The Gift Of Tongues (Knitting Factory Works, 1995)
  • Chris Cutler / Parkins, Shark! (Megacorp, 1999)
  • Parkins / Nels Cline / Thurston Moore, Live At Easthampton Town Hall (JMZ, 2001)
  • Weightless Animals (Parkins, Kaffe Matthews, Mandy McIntosh), Weightless Animals (Annette Works, 2004)
  • Parkins, Frederic Rzewski, James Tenney, Music for String Quartet & Percussion (New World Records, 2013); with Eclipse Quartet (S. Parkins, Sarah Thornblade, Alma Lisa Fernandez, M. Parkins) and William Winant
  • Parkins / Pauline Oliveros, Presença Series #01 (Lucky Kitchen / Fundação de Serralves, 2015)
  • MZM (Myra Melford, Parkins, Miya Masaoka), MZM (Infrequent Seams, 2017)
  • Green Dome (Parkins, Ryan Sawyer, Ryan Ross Smith), Thinking in Stitches (Case Study Records, 2019)
  • Parkins / Brian Chase, Live at San Damiano Mission (Chaikin Records / Case Study Records, 2019)
  • Parkins / Wobbly, Triplicates (Relative Pitch Records, 2019)
  • Parkins / Jeff Kolar, SCALE (Two Rooms, 2019)
  • Parkins / Mette Rasmussen / Ryan Sawyer, Glass Triangle (Relative Pitch, 2021)

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]