Isabelle is a work from 1993 by the New York avant-garde composer and improviser which utilizes the small ensemble of the composer on sampler and electric harp with sisters Margret Parkins on cello, Sarah Parkins on violin, and Lisa Crowder on piano. Divided into ten parts, the suite draws on the story of the life of Isabelle Eberhardt, an explorer, wanderer, and writer whose diaries of turn-of-the century nomadism in North Africa are the basis for these eloquent musical miniatures. Zeena Parkins took inspiration from her travelogues and transformed the modes of North African traditional folk and religious music fused with European classical and a healthy input of lively avant-garde improvisation. The piece culminates in an outstanding closing section in "Oblivion Seekers" and "The Breath of the Night," an evocative exercise in atmospherics from Zeena Parkins' harp. A second work dating from 1992, Hup!, is a duo of Zeena Parkins on harp and sampler with Ikue Mori on drum machines. What sets out with sparse ambient gestures builds into a fanfare of sampling and tone-bending over the five pieces -- a magnificent work which is entirely complementary to the title piece in its playfulness.
AllMusic Review by Dean McFarlane