Born December 8th 1965 in Springfield Massachusetts. At the age of about five he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where he began playing clarinet around the age of ten as well as anything else he could get his hands on, in local blues, punk, rap, gospel, folk, and jazz groups through his teenage years. A strong interest in records and films led to hundreds of hours lost in libraries and a developing fascination with avant -garde art and composition. From 82-84 he studied music at the School of Performing Arts in Indianapolis though most of the compositional studies and early record collages were self-taught explorations. This led to a year at the Oberlin Conservatory where fanatical studying and a heavy dose of Duchamp, Cage, Fluxus, Xenakis with introductions to computer music produced a mass of pieces soon to be lost after leaving what he felt was a closed and cynical environment.
The next pieces written after this short and difficult period at the conservatory, were solo vocal improvisations upon arriving in New York in '85. Through this he met and worked with many of the people involved in the downtown NY free improvisation scene of the early 80s who became important influences. As the pieces became more collage oriented, cassette and record sources became more prevalent which led to a pragmatic choice of working with turntables in '88. He began working regularly in various projects of John Zorn's and writing for dance, video, film and other collaborations and first began to tour with Zorn in Europe. The turntable playing was split between improvisations, scored pieces and club DJ gigs at many NY clubs. The split between club work and experimental work ended in the early 90s when the first CD was released, Shock Corridor in '92 on Zorn's Avant label, replacing the turntables with samplers. Then, as now, Zorn was a supportive friend and strong influence particularly from the Spillane, Godard, and Elegy works as well as the community involving people such as Anthony Coleman, Mark Ribot, Zeena Parkins, Jim Pugliese, David Weinstein, Tom Cora, and many others from the NY scenes, although his concentration on electronic collage, working in club culture and the fact he was ten to fifteen years younger than most led to a mixed and somewhat isolated development. The larger community came through recordings, films, visual works and contact with many choreographers, visual artists and writers. As both solo sampler and ensemble works progressed he began touring extensively in Europe and releasing several CDs a year with one or two being major works.
Through out the mid and late nineties he spent most of his time either recording or touring spending less and less time in the East Village (NY). In '99 the touring was taking its toll both physically and in terms of new work. So between 1999-2001 he temporarily based himself in Brussels-Belgium, creating and touring extensively. David now has residency in Melbourne, Australia and shares a home with wife, visual artist Kristi Monfries with whom he has started the record label Metta Editions.
The last four years have seen a greater shift to a wide range of projects with classical musicians, folk musicians, video pieces, collaborations with electronic dance music makers, and solo sampler work both in performance and recording and commissioned works for dance and film. The time Europe included short stints of lectures, radio programming, teaching, children's program's and touring in Australia.
Now since the shift to Australia and the Asian region, the most recent projects are following the second chamber symphony and a continuing series of solo instrument/sampler duos (based on Berio's Sequenza series) is a work based on the Javanese version of the Hindu epic the Ramayana. Similar to the Tower of Mirrors and Satyricon approach, the original text is followed creating an independent narrative collage of acoustic and electronic scored music, samples of old recordings and arrangements of sound effects, language, and various sampler created ensembles. Planned recording in Australia, Java and in Europe will supply a huge range of source material for an eventual CD and performance of live sampler and live video sampler work. He is also presently working on the design of a new sampler NAJO both for sound and image at IRCAM the Paris based music research center.
Styles: Pop/Rock, Electro-Acoustic, Modern Composition, Techno, Experimental, Ambient Techno, Avant-Garde, Classical
Instruments: Synthesizer, Composer, Turntables, Sampling
Manhattan-based composer David Shea is closely associated with the New York Downtown experimental music scene, which includes oft-collaborators such as John Zorn, Anthony Coleman, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, Fred Frith, Ikue Mori, and Bill Laswell. A sonic architect utilizing samplers, turntables, drum machines, and sequencers in complex amalgamations of genre and cultural reference, Shea is apt to move from probing electro-acoustics to Chinese traditional music, American pop, Latin jazz, and exotica in the space of a single piece. The bulk of his work appearing under his own name has been released through Zorn-related labels such as Tzadik and Avant, as well as through Belgian experimental music label Sub Rosa. Employing compositional methods forged from early electronic experimentalists such as Iannis Xenakis, Morton Feldman, Gyorgi Ligeti, and John Cage, Shea also adds more modern techniques of digital sound design and manipulation, cutting the combination with a wide palette of historical and cultural influence. A practicing Buddhist, Shea's odd fusion of East and West (particularly on albums such as Hsi-Yu Chi and Tower of Mirrors) is partly a function of the expressive role Eastern cultures have played in his own musical and cultural development. Shea's facility for fusing not only the spiritual but also the pop cultural elements of Eastern cultures (Hong Kong cinema, allegorical Chinese theater, etc.) is accomplished and critically renowned.
Although Shea's early work was more readily assimilable to other sequencerand sampler-based post-classical composers (such as Ikue Mori and John Oswald), combining raw elements derived from existing recordings in order to suggest various lines of connection, Shea has more recently broadened his approach to an increasingly compositional role. This has generally involved a bit more discretion in the use of samples, as well as a more mutational approach to their application (digital manipulation, effects, etc.). Shea has also found a growing audience in the more experimental strains of the post-industrial/post-rave ambient and electronic music set, having collaborated both live and in the studio with artists such as Robin Rimbaud (Scanner), Robert Hampson (Main), Tobias Hazan, David Morley, and DJ Grazhoppa. Shea also continues to bridge gaps separating his various audiences by performing at events and contributing to projects which to engage both in equal measure.
- Sean Cooper (All Music Guide)