Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Texture of Sound: An Informance with Zeena Parkins (November 28, 2007)

Recorded on November 28, 2007, at the Marsh, in San Francisco, Derk Richardson interviews composer and performer Zeena Parkins before a live audience, as part of Rova:Arts Improv:21 series of informances. Parkins begins with a description of her musical education, starting with her acceptance to Detroit’s famous performing arts institution, Cass Technical High School. Already an accomplished pianist with dreams of a classical concert career, Parkins suddenly found herself assigned to also learn to play the harp, an instrument that quickly became a favorite, and with which she is perhaps most identified, despite being accomplished at playing the piano and also the accordion, among other. Parkins later attended Bard College in New York where she was gradually exposed to more avant-garde art forms, including cinema and modern dance. Soon she began to gain a reputation as a talented multi-instrumentalist and courageous improvisor, often collaborating with such experimental rock musicians as Chris Cutler, Fred Frith, Butch Morris, Nels Cline, and Björk. Always interested in exploring the boundaries of music, theater, and technology, Parkins has worked closely with a number of choreographers and filmmakers, producing compositions that successfully create what she calls a theater of sound, where the setting of any type of sound, be it a plucked string or the crinkling of plastic bubble wrap, determines its musicality. To illustrate her comments, Parkins performs live on an electric harp designed to her own specifications, as well as playing a selection of recorded electro-acoustic and musique concrète pieces. Unfortunately a film shown at the end of the event, as well as two tracks from a 1996 album featuring Rotwelsch, a Yiddish-based thieves' language, are introduced but not included in this program. However this omission merely leaves the listener with a hunger to hear more of Zeena Parkins work, an insuppressible desire we encourage all to fulfill.