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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.

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