Zeena Parkins is a harpist active in rock music, free improvisation and jazz. Parkins plays standard harps, as well as several custom-made one-of-a kind electric harps; she also plays piano and accordion. She was a one term substitute at Mills College in Fall 2007.
Born in 1956 in Detroit, Michigan, she studied at Bard College and moved to New York City in 1984.
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.
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.
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. 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, and Jennifer Lacey, and has won a Bessie Award for "sustained achievement in composing scores for dance." In 1997 she was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.
She has also worked with video artist Janene Higgins and visual artists Daria Martin, Cynthia Madansky and Mandy McIntosh.