The Opium War is a radio play with music by Zeena Parkins, text by Ana María Simo, many actors, actresses and musicians, among them Ikue D, J. Olive, D. D. Dorvellier, Jonathan Bepler, and others. The story, quite dramatic, is of a family involved with opium, smoking it, selling it, and the music set the story in a very special atmosphere.
As a multi-instrumentalist and improvisor/composer Zeena Parkins is active in the New York and European New music scene as a sought after contributor and collaborator. Parkins has appeared on over 70 CDs and in numerous concerts all over the world. Special projects have included touring and recording with Butch Morris (International Comprovisation Ensemble), Elliott Sharp (Orchestra Carbon and Psycho-Acoustic), Tom Cora (St. Jeanne Des Abbatoirs, Skeleton Crew, New York Roof), Ikue Mori (Hex Kitchen, B-Side) John Zorn (Cobra, Bezique, Darts, The Bribe) and Fred Frith (soloist in Gusto, his composition for the Ensemble Modern, Graphic Scores, Keep the Dog and Skeleton Crew). Zeena has appeared in music festivals in Europe, South America, Japan and NYC, including: Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, The Serious Fun Festival, JVC, Jazz Festival, Experimental in Buenos Airs, The Music Merge Festival in Tokyo, The Time Festival in Gent, Belgium, Szene Festival in Salzburg, Austria, The Moers Festival in Germany, Willisau and Tacklos Festivals in Switzerland, Saalfalden Jazz Festival in Austria, the LMC Festival in London, Vancouver Costal Jazz Festival, Musique Actuel and the Mimi Festivals in France, the Warsaw Jazz Festival and the Victoriaville Festival in Canada.
Parkins' own work for large ensemble, bands and mixed media include: Isabelle (an audio-film tribute to the life and work of Isabelle Eberhardt), Mouth=Maul=Betrayer, (a piece inspired by the lives of Jewish Gangsters and an old Yiddish-based thieves language called Rotwelsch), a new Gangster Band release, Pan-Acousticon and The Opium War-A Radio Play, in collaboration with Cuban playwright Ana Maria Simo. Solo harp concerts often include an ongoing project with video artist Janene Higgins which uses integrated multi-screened video projections and live video mixing. The Bang-on-a-Can Spit Orchestra commissioned and debuted Zeena's chamber orchestra work, V.O.U.-Valley of Unrest, performing it for two consecutive seasons.
Parkins is also dedicated to her work with dance and has contributed many scores in her collaborations with choreographers. She has received commissions from her long term collaborator Jennifer Monson. Parkins and Monson have created over a dozen full length works together. Parkins has also worked with choreographers Cydney Wilkes, Neil Greenberg, Sondra Loring, John Jaspers and Jennifer Lacey. In [voice tells], 14 Tiny Pictures, No More No Less, the piece performed with Lacey in festivals around Europe and at NYC's PS 122, Zeena created, in collaboration with sound artist Liz Fiorentino, a multi-sound system envronment including an invented instrument that consisted of 60 tiny speakers hung over the audience with live sound manipulation. Currently Zeena is working on a new project with Lacey call $SHOT, which will debut in NYC at the Kitchen in May, 2000.
As a player, Zeena continues her pioneering work with extended techniques, exploring the possibilities of prepared and electronic processing to the acoustic harp and her one-of-a-kind, self-designed electric harp. These works have been recorded and performed at Roulette, the Kitchen, The Knitting Factory, Tonic, the Alternative Museum, Symphony Space, the Whitney Museum, galleries and museums outside of NYC and in tours of Europe, Japan and Russia. International radio performances have been broadcast on ORF in Austria, VPRO in Holland and the BBC in England. Performing and recording collaborators have included Jim O'Rourke, Lee Renaldo, Pauline Oliveros, Nels Cline, Chris Cutler, David Shea and Cornell Rochester. Zeena has been selected as an Artist-in Residence at Harvestworks and is a recipient of the 1997 New York Dance and Performance "Bessie" Award, for her score for Jennifer Monson's Sender. As well as her work for dance, Parkins has written numerous scores for theater, film and video, receiving commissions from NYSCA, the Rockefeller Foundation, Mary Flager Cary Charitable Trust, the Jerome Foundation and Meet the Composer. Recently Zeena was honored with the prestigious award from the Foundation for Contemporary Performing Arts for artistic achievement. Zeena has also served as artistic curator on numerous programs. She organized a four day multi-media festival in Wels Austria, she curated a month of New Music shows at Tonic in NYC and she co-curated the music series at the Swiss Institute for the year 2000 season. Currently Ms. Parkins is on the sound faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.