Zeena Parkins

Last updated

Zeena Parkins
ZeenaParkins April2008.jpg
Zeena Parkins with Cosa Brava, Jazzit, Salzburg, Austria, April 5, 2008
Background information
Born1956 (age 6364)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Genres Experimental, free improvisation, avant-garde
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
Instruments Harp, accordion, keyboards, omnichord
Years active1980s–present
Labels No Man's Land, Tzadik
Associated acts News from Babel, Skeleton Crew, Keep the Dog, Cosa Brava, John Zorn, Ikue Mori
Website www.zeenaparkins.com

Zeena Parkins (born 1956) is an American harpist active in free improvisation and jazz. Parkins plays standard harps, as well as several custom electric harps; she also plays piano and accordion. She is currently a guest faculty member for composition courses at Mills College. [1] [2]


Life and career

Born in 1956 in Detroit, Michigan, she studied at Bard College and moved to New York City in 1984. [2]

Her work ranges from solo performance to large ensembles. Besides standard and electric harps, her work also incorporates Foley, field recordings, analog synthesizers, samplers, oscillators and homemade instruments. [1]

She has done several solo recordings and has also recorded or performed with Björk, John Zorn (including in Cobra performances), Elliott Sharp, Ikue Mori, Butch Morris, Tin Hat Trio, Jim O'Rourke, Fred Frith, Chris Cutler, Lee Ranaldo, Nels Cline, Pauline Oliveros, Anthony Braxton, Matmos, Yoko Ono, Christian Marclay, Courtney Love's band Hole and others. [1] [2] [3]

She has been a member of a number of experimental rock bands, including No Safety, News from Babel, Skeleton Crew and Fred Frith's review band, Keep the Dog. [4] In March 2008 she joined Frith's Cosa Brava quintet comprising Frith, Parkins, Carla Kihlstedt, Matthias Bossi, and The Norman Conquest.

Parkins has often worked with dance companies and choreographers, including the John Jasperse Company, Jennifer Monson, Neil Greenberg, Emmanuelle Vo-Dinh, BodyCartography Project, [5] and Jennifer Lacey, and has won a Bessie Award for "sustained achievement in composing scores for dance." [1] Parkins received a 1997 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.

She has also worked with video artist Janene Higgins [6] [7] and visual artists Daria Martin, Cynthia Madansky and Mandy McIntosh. [1]


With Björk

With Alex Cline

With Nels Cline

With Fred Frith

With Maybe Monday

With News from Babel

With Marc Ribot

With John Zorn

With Tin Hat Trio

With Bobby Previte

With Pauline Oliveros



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Zeena Parkins performer biography in Misuse... program (2007)
  2. 1 2 3 Zeena Parkins at AllMusic
  3. Zeena Parkins: Biography, official site.
  4. 1 2 Zeena Parkins: Works, official site.
  5. Zeena Parkins artist profile from P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, an affiliate of The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved on June 18, 2008.
  6. "Wake the Dead Spring Music Series : Arch and How I See the World, #1". Location One. Retrieved October 23, 2007.
  7. "Zeena Parkins & Janene Higgins, WRO '09 Media Art Biennale, Poland". WRO Art Center, Wroclaw, Poland.

Related Research Articles

Miya Masaoka American composer, musician and sound artist

Miya Masaoka is based in New York City and is an American composer, musician, and sound artist active in the field of experimental music. Her work encompasses contemporary classical composition, improvisation, electroacoustic music, traditional Japanese instruments, and performance art. Her full-length ballet was performed at the Venice Biennale 2004. She is the recipient of the Core Fulbright Scholarship for Japan, 2016.

Mark Dresser is an American double bass player and composer.

Ikue Mori Japanese drummer, electronic musician and composer

Ikue Mori, also known as Ikue Ile, is a drummer, electronic musician, composer, and graphic designer.

Elliott Sharp American musician

Elliott Sharp is an American contemporary classical composer, multi-instrumentalist, and performer.

Jim Black American jazz drummer

Jim Black is an American jazz drummer who has performed with Tim Berne and Dave Douglas, among others. He attended Berklee College of Music.

Guy Klucevsek is an American-born accordionist and composer. Klucevsek is one of relatively few accordion players active in new music, jazz and free improvisation.

Tom Cora American cellist and composer

Thomas Henry Corra, better known as Tom Cora, was an American cellist and composer, best known for his improvisational performances in the field of experimental jazz and rock. He recorded with John Zorn, Butch Morris, and The Ex, and was a member of Curlew, Third Person and Skeleton Crew.

Skeleton Crew (band) American experimental rock and jazz group

Skeleton Crew was a United States experimental rock and jazz group from 1982 to 1986, comprising core members Fred Frith and Tom Cora, with Zeena Parkins joining later. Best known for their live improvisation performances where they played various instruments simultaneously, they also recorded two studio albums Learn to Talk (1984) and The Country of Blinds (1986).

Nels Cline American guitarist and composer

Nels Courtney Cline is an American guitarist and composer. He has been the guitarist for the band Wilco since 2004.

Wayne Horvitz American musician

Wayne Horvitz is an American composer, keyboardist and record producer He came to prominence in the Downtown scene of 1980s and '90s New York City, noted for working with John Zorn's Naked City among others. Horvitz has since relocated to the Seattle, Washington area where he has several ongoing groups and has worked as an adjunct professor of composition at Cornish College of the Arts.

Bobby Previte American drummer

Bobby Previte is a drummer, composer, and bandleader. He earned a degree in economics from the University at Buffalo, where he also studied percussion. He moved to New York City in 1979 and began professional relationships with John Zorn, Wayne Horvitz, and Elliott Sharp.

Carla Kihlstedt American violinist, singer and composer

Carla Kihlstedt is an American composer, violinist, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist, originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and currently working from a home studio on Cape Cod.

Chris Brown is an American composer, pianist and electronic musician, who creates music for acoustic instruments with interactive electronics, for computer networks, and for improvising ensembles. He was active early in his career as an inventor and builder of electroacoustic instruments; he has also performed widely as an improviser and pianist with groups as "Room" and the "Glenn Spearman Double Trio." In 1986 he co-founded the pioneering computer network music ensemble "The Hub". He is also known for his recorded performances of music by Henry Cowell, Luc Ferrari, and John Zorn. He has received commissions from the Berkeley Symphony, the Rova Saxophone Quartet, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, the Gerbode Foundation, the Phonos Foundation and the Creative Work Fund. His recent music includes the poly-rhythm installation "Talking Drum", the "Inventions" series for computers and interactive performers, and the radio performance "Transmissions" series, with composer Guillermo Galindo.

Fred Frith discography Recordings by Fred Frith

Fred Frith appears on over 400 recordings. This is a selection from bands he was/is a member of, collaborations with other bands and musicians, and his solo recordings. The year indicates when the album was first released. For a comprehensive discography, see the Discography of Fred Frith by Michel Ramond, Patrice Roussel and Stephane Vuilleumier.

Cosa Brava American experimental rock and free improvisation group

Cosa Brava is an experimental rock and free improvisation group formed in March 2008 in Oakland, California by multi-instrumentalist and composer Fred Frith. The band comprises Frith on guitar, Zeena Parkins on keyboards and accordion, Carla Kihlstedt on violin, Matthias Bossi on drums, and The Norman Conquest on sound manipulation. All About Jazz described their music as "somewhere between folk, Celtic, modern chamber, Latin, funk, Eastern, and prog-rock".

<i>Cobra</i> (album) 1987 studio album by John Zorn

Cobra is a double album featuring a live and studio performance of John Zorn's improvisational game piece, Cobra recorded in 1985 and 1986 and released on the Hathut label in 1987. Subsequent recordings of the piece were released on Knitting Factory, Avant and Zorn's own label Tzadik Records, ) in 2002.

<i>Ragged Atlas</i> 2010 studio album by Cosa Brava

Ragged Atlas is a studio album by Fred Frith's United States experimental rock group Cosa Brava. It was recorded in San Francisco in December 2008 and was released by Intakt Records in Switzerland on March 5, 2010. Ragged Atlas was the band's first album, and is largely instrumental with a little singing on five of the thirteen the tracks. Frith composed all the music, with lyric contributions on "Lucky Thirteen" by Rebby Sharp, a singer/guitarist Frith had worked with in Orthotonics.

In the 1990s in jazz, jazz rap continued progressing from the late 1980s and early 1990s, and incorporated jazz influence into hip hop. In 1988, Gang Starr released the debut single "Words I Manifest", sampling Dizzy Gillespie's 1962 "Night in Tunisia", and Stetsasonic released "Talkin' All That Jazz", sampling Lonnie Liston Smith. Gang Starr's debut LP, No More Mr. Nice Guy, and their track "Jazz Thing" for the soundtrack of Mo' Better Blues, sampling Charlie Parker and Ramsey Lewis. Gang Starr also collaborated with Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard.Groups making up the collective known as the Native Tongues Posse tended towards jazzy releases; these include the Jungle Brothers' debut Straight Out the Jungle and A Tribe Called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm and The Low End Theory.

<i>The Letter</i> (Cosa Brava album) 2012 studio album by Cosa Brava

The Letter is a studio album by Fred Frith's United States experimental rock group Cosa Brava. It was recorded in France in June 2010 and Oakland, California in August 2011, and was released by Intakt Records in Switzerland on March 21, 2012.

<i>The Inkling</i> 2000 studio album by Nels Cline

The Inkling is an album by American guitarist Nels Cline which was released in May 2000 on the Cryptogramophone label.