Shelley Hirsch (New York, NY)
an accomplished vocalist/ performer/composer whose original compositions, staged musical works, improvisations and collaborations have been presented in concert halls, museums, clubs, galleries, theaters and on television across America and Europe.
Hirsch is a three-time artist-in-residence at STEIM (Amsterdam) and at Harvestworks/Studio PASS in New York City, and a recipient of a DAAD fellowship to live and work in Berlin, Germany. Hirsch can be heard on over 25 CDs including "Haiku Lingo", a duo CD/LP with her longtime collaborator, keyboardist David Weinstein. She has created three works for NEW AMERICAN RADIO: #39(1991), The Vidzer Family (1991), and O Little Town of East New York (1992), which won a First Prize in the Åke Blomstroem competition at the prestigious international radio and TV competition, PRIX FUTURA, Berlin, 1993.
Hirsch will create a new work, Jerry, for NEW AMERICAN RADIO's Fall 1996 edition.
STATES (Tellus, 1997)
Jean Luc Godard famously said that movies should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order. If Shelley Hirsch had taken his advice and applied it to her new album States, she would have created a masterpiece. States is a retrospective disc with works spanning from 1981 to the present. Hirsch is an experimental vocalist of stunning ability and States shows off her range from cabaret styles to abstract layered vocal work. In the end, however, she may show us more than we would like to know.
Okay--first the good news. Her latest works "Tenemos" and "States"--both dating from 1997--are incredible. "States," the album's centerpiece, is a complex soundscape that mixes polyphonic renditions of American pop songs ("Blue Moon" and "Blue Skies"), cocktail lounge monologues, techno music, exotica, Bulgarian choral singing, and the Firebird Suite, all strung together in a stew of electronically-treated found sounds. It's not an easy thing melding all this territory into coherence yet Hirsch manages to keep the thing seamlessly afloat for almost 20 minutes. "Tenemos" is a hypnotic treatment of a Steinian sentence, "Don't touch the rosebush." There are grunts and groans, cut-up words, drony echoes, clicks and pops. It's a marvelous update on vocal techniques pioneered by Cathy Berberian earlier in the century. When Hirsch keeps things loose, free, and abstract, it works. ( )
It doesn't take much to fracture a narrative and it can make a marvelous structure on which to hang your experimentation. Consistently, Hirsch's best work has been in an improv setting (as a member of The September Band) and as the best moments here prove, when she merges her narrative with her improvisiational skills, the results are outstanding. She's been on the scene for almost two decades so she should know better. And while one can admire her overreaching ambition, it is too often misplaced, crippling her very substantial abilities--depriving her audience of her abundant gifts.
New York Press, 1998
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