Zeena Parkins’ contribution to experimental music and the development of the harp in the late twentieth century

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music Honours


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Cat Hope


This thesis will analyse and discuss the performance and compositional style of American harpist Zeena Parkins (b. 1956). It will outline her performative and compositional approaches in relation to the harp, and will describe a piece I have composed and performed, inspired by Parkins’ work.

Parkins’ use of the instrument outside of its traditional idioms is unique, pioneering the use of the harp as a tool for improvisation and composition by using extended techniques and a range of compositional approaches.

The research will outline her exploration and extension of the possibilities of the instrument as a performer, and how she has transformed common perceptions of the harp and of the harpist in contemporary music practice. It will examine her compositional style for the harp and will include an analysis of one of her works as a soloist. The thesis will conclude with a description of the work I have composed in her style.

The thesis is divided into four chapters: the first consisting of biographical information in order to contextualise Parkins’ music, while the second outlines her performance and compositional styles and techniques. Chapter three will present an example of Parkins’ work for analysis, which will be followed by a discussion of the piece I have written and how it is has been influenced by Parkins’ work.


Exegesis only available, online access restricted to ECU staff and students by author's request

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