Shelley Hirsch
Shelley Hirsch

Going as far back as her childhood, Hirsch relentlessly mines her life experiences, concocting brilliant collage-like reminiscences that are alternately, and sometimes simultaneously, disquieting and euphoric.  Embracing archetypal personas such as Blanche Dubois, she weaves their reinvented essences into the maze of associations conjured by her alchemical compositions.  Investigating immediate consciousness, memory consciousness, and image-making consciousness, she becomes a producer of sonic images, recycling the discarded and the strange.  Her remarkably unfettered access to the motherlode of automatism enhances her gift of spontaneous ingenuity.

Hirsch's command of extended vocal techniques imparts enormous variety to her music.  The tone of her voice can range from audacious vulnerability, to charismatic intimacy (especially in the story-telling segments), to hallucinatory excursions floating effortlessly out of the spoken/sung voice and into pure Hirschian singing.  Such transitions always remain viscerally connected to the text and in context.  (Anne LeBaron/ Garland Press)

Hirsch is an extraodinary vocalist... enormously, inventive, scathingly satiric and virtuosic... A brilliant overwhelming presence on stage.  (Peter Watrous, New York Times)

... stunning, psychologically naked, haunting... wild beautiful energy... her dramatic stream of consciousness singing is as original as anything downtown.  (Kyle Gann, Village Voice)

One moment she'll be chopping vegetables with an enormous cleaver and the next soaring over the audience on a swing. As entertaining as she is eclectic. Hirsch has the verve of a pop singer; Judy Garland possessed, Lotte Lenya tripping on some astral plane. (Vogue Magazine)

Vital humor, playful performance and fast changing surprises astounded the audience... musical and theatrical brilliance. (Berliner Tageszeitung)

Absolutely explosive... a sort of hybrid genre between stand up comedy and powerful vocal artistry. (L Union, Montreal)

A woman of a thousand voices... She offered an enthralling demonstration of the way songs, vocal styles and language might have evolved out of more primal musical impulses. (Stephen Holden, New York Times)

She is easily the most  versatile, quick thinking and amusing singer of the new music.  (Kevin Whitehead, Coda Magazine)

Shelley Hirsch's "O Little Town of East New York" answers the question "How did a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn grow up to be one of our generations most outrageous vocal talents?" (VillageVoice, NYC)

A euphorically received performance. No one could copy this work. One would need a voice capable of constant transformation, an unlimited fantasy and masterful, anarchistic sense of culture that this artist shares with no one else. Speech, song, movement, pictures, fiction and truth are all there.  (Abendzeitung,Nurnberg)

Major accolades go to Shelley Hirsch, the diva of 1000 voices The script is wonderfully impressionistic, wildly funny.   (The Wire, London)

Hirsch sings the past to life, in a voice that can roller coaster from crystal cracking coloratura arias to the mush-mouthed bluster of a Brooklyn roughneck to the adenoidal yawp of a yenta. O Little Town is stuffed to the bursting with the frayed dreams, unspoken sorrows, and the kooky hilarity of the characters who peopled her neighborhood. (Mark Dery, New York Magazine)

Her wonderful autobiographical radio play The Vidzer Family is a brilliant and sensitive collage of the oral history of this family ."   (web review/Blue Gene Tryranny)

In her performance "For Jerry" this all around artist honors her colleague Jerry Hunt, the composer and performance artist. The evening is a tremendously stimulating voyage through a magical universe of sounds, pictures and objects raising many questions about life and death.  The audience is not seated in the auditorium but on a stage which resembles some kind of enchanted fairytale forest.  Video monitors are transformed into bizarre blossoms, empty picture-frames become contemporary witnesses and simple house-hold items such as a souring pad, function as fascinating musical instruments... the spectator is bewitched and does not want to go back to reality."  (PeC, Berliner Kurier)

...tremendously intense scenes... It is not possible to have brought Jerry Hunt his person, his work to the stage any better than this.  One great evening. Two great artists. (Tagesspiegel Berlin)

Playful Seance- A funny, yet serious play in which the smallest nuance is perfectly balanced.  An absurd, crazy One Woman Show combining music,theatre and installation.  Shelley Hirsch in a wonderland between high tech and archaic ritual. (Robert Jungwirth, Associated Press)

"States" is incredible... (NY Press)

"States" is a pandemonium of resuscitated ghosts from the past, the present, and the future; an illustrious parade of characters; a vocal discourse between various impersonations of imaginary people; an associative stream of the subconscious where Shelley Hirsch's singing in tongues reformulates our own collective nightmares and hopes. (SuddeutscheZeitung)

A master of mind twisting imagery, irony and humor delivered with astounding physicality, the composer and vocalist performs one of her stream of consciousness masterpieces, States. The piece is assembled from a miasma of musical and environmental sources driven by a text that is both personal and universal, often shifting with the flick of an eyelash.   (Roulette TV Web Review)

Hirsch's creative transformations of kitschy fragments and her skilled shaping of multiple dimensions suggest a quality central to the surrealist doctrine, the merveilleux:  "a rupture in the order of reality." (Adamowicz 1998:11-12)   Her methods go beyond conventional definitions of composition and of performance.  By violating logical, linear narrative forms, by opposing elements from our known world in disturbing ways, she plunges herself, and her audience, into collective reminiscences so visceral that they seem almost visual---a surreal accomplishment in itself.  (Anne Le Baron in her article Reflections on Surrealism in Postmodern Music - Garland Press)

Walking and Stumbling Through Your Sleep.
Koch, Schütz, Studer with Shelley Hirsch. Intakt CD Michele Faggi for indie-eye

"Hirsch is a singer, who can yodel up to the alpines, brilliantly mixing in an operatic bel canto, that uses the full pharynx for effusive vocal acrobatics and archaic guttural sounds. Koch, Schütz, and Studer let the Diva take precedence. Hirsch is in her element and takes us to bizarre dream worlds, taps into the deep layers of consciousness to, and lets the streams of memory run through words in multiple dialects, resulting in nightmarish mazes, gushing forth chains of associations." Christoph Wagner, Wochenzeitung, WOZ, Zürich, 28. März 2013

"Accompanied by the hardcore Chamber Music Swiss combo Koch / Schütz / Studer, Shelley Hirsch's highly virtuosic and progressive language arts eschew any categorization withdrew into common criteria, and earned polarizing reactions that ranged from indignant slamming doors, to rapturous applause. Feelings like these are rare, yet bring memories of the provocative Sturm und Drang, and show that the post-war avant-garde is still awake, harkening to the simultaneity of serenity and indignation that can be heard on the recordings of John Cage's European premiere in Donaueschingen."-NMZ online

"Ms. Hirsch is a shapeshifting singer who draws from a wealth of characters, songs and styles. The title track starts with an amusing, funky groove with Shelley sort of rapping over the top while working her way through different cartoonish characters. Shelley is often hilarious and pokes fun at the way words convey messages yet leave room for interpretation. Ms. Hirsch is a master improviser/storyteller who can pull a theme out of the air and then twist into all sorts of ridiculous shapes. On this disc, she fits perfectly within the flow without really dominating. It sounds like we are listening to or watching several overlapping films simultaneously as the music shifts into different directions. Her voice has a way of pulling us inside an ongoing narrative that keeps changing perspective."-Bruce Lee Gallanter, DownTownMusic Gallery, NYC, June 2013

"She coos, moans, whispers, and shouts. The words tumbling in free fall, across languages, as if the Tower of Babel were a children's playground. Hirsch's voice is her instrument and language is her art. Between childlike giggles, operatic might and lusty prattle, the falling words build their own sense, creating houses full of humor, absurdity, and poetic depth."-Rudolf Amstutz, reviews Koch-Schütz-Studer with Shelley Hirsch in Donaueschingen for the-title

Koch-Schütz-Studer with Shelley Hirsch: "A unique poetry of the now, telling of the waywardness and drift of language ... full of lust and humour, lasciviousness and rebellion".-jazz critic Harry Lachner

ZK Slaby review of Stumbling Through Your Sleep

Glenn Astartia review of "Walking and Stumbling Through Your Sleep"

Walking and Stumbling Through Your Sleep was in the Top 10 Classical Albums of 2013 for Rhapsody Music, as well as Kurt Gottschalk's Top 10 (Jazz Critics Album Poll).

O Little Town of East New York

"Much like Hubert Selby Junior's "Last Exit to Brooklyn", "O Little Town Of East New York" provides a really character-driven look into a side of New York that many might not see. But unlike Selby's dark, obscene magnum opus, "O Little Town Of East New York" is a beautiful, albeit odd description of a Jewish Neighborhood, and the many characters that inhabit it. What I really love about this album is how three-dimensional the characters are - Hirsch creates characters that seem so real and detailed, you can't help but imagine them fleshed out, strolling the streets of New York, or sitting inside, reading Dostoevsky -the whole album so lovely and picturesque. Now, this album is part of Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture, and yes, Hirsch's proud sense of Jewish identity shines through on this - Skinheads might be disappointed, but to everyone else, it's a great addition to Tzadik's roster - the range of Jewish characters she conjures up are anything but stereotypical, and really add to the the three-dimensionality of the characters and the overall narrative of Hirsch's album.

And while I would classify this as Spoken Word, Hirsch's voice is not just flat, monotonous monologues - Hirsh's voice soars and bellows, going from playful sing-song to crazed yelling, and occasionally, beautiful singing. It's a very varied album in terms of vocal delivery, and Hirsch's experimentation only makes me love this absolutely bizarre album even more. On another not, the instrumentation on this album is extremely varied and bizarre as well, and I love it. It goes from odd and off-kilter bleeps and bloops to screeching violins, to plaintive piano ditties - it's absolutely lovely, and it perfectly complements the music."-Public Embarassment on O Little Town of East New York

Billy Martin's Wicked Knee

"Billy Martin's Wicked Knee," Top 10 albums of the year for Tom Hull (Jazz Critics Album Poll)

"And the boys even invite a gal into their funhouse: vocalist Shelley Hirsch adds her talents to "99%", letting fly with her own on-the-spot scats and stories. She winds and weaves her voice around, between, over, and under the horns; she goads reactions from them and teases the beat; and manages to meld gonzo and sultry in a weird and wonderful way." -Brian Robins jambands on Billy Martin's Wicked Knee

Where Were You Then?

"Where Were You Then? is an evocative, nostalgic, and stylistic exploration of personal and cultural memory... Shelley's style has always been polyglot in its influences but the result rises above its sources and emerges as a unique sound that is unlike any other, residing at the boundary between epiphany and emotional collapse. Part performance artist and part chanteuse, her appeal has as much to do with her emotional presence (and vulnerability) as with the formal structure of her pieces.-Robert Egert in WG News and Arts.

Kurt Gottschalk of WFMU Radio wrote "Gorgeous .. Shelley Hirsch is among the most honest of improvisers, direct and deeply in the moment. When she turns that candor and intimacy to composed works, as in her "O Little Town of East New York," the results can be revelatory in the strictest sense of the word. With composer Simon Ho, Hirsch has created a work that follows in that vein, and one of her finest records to date."

"With the help of a luminous compositional cohort, Shelley Hirsch has perhaps released her finest work to date, subverting roles in the meantime: at first accepting the audience as her own psychoanalyst, she ends extracting regret, affirmative smiles and utter admiration from the overwhelmed listener."-Massimo Ricci

"The eccentric, unconventional singer Shelley Hirsch teams up with composer Simon Ho for this vibrant, compelling album that packs an emotional wallop with memorable storytelling, told/sung using a mind-bogglingly wide variety of vocal styles and accents....It's an album to be savored with complete attention, and it's like a love letter itself, enveloped in the naked truth, if the listener is willing to let her in." Ernie Paik Chatanooga Pulse review where were you then (Paik but as #2 of his top 10 albums of 2012)

"While Hirsch's voice does at times invoke a delicate, elusive sensibility amid the grime and squalor of urban space, she's as savvy and full of bravado as any New York pigeon, her astonishing vocal abilities encompassing everything from soaring glissandos and fluttering ululations to deceptively simple spoken-word pieces. The result is a loopy, fragmented, kaleidoscopic journey in which memories spin out multiple worlds, at once sublime and earthy, magical and funny and chaotic.... Like Walter Benjamin's notion about the constellar, rather than linear, nature of time, images and stories and sounds come at you all at once. Any notion of orderly progress, or of any one event having more spiritual weight than any other, is tossed out the window with anarchic glee. And this, more than anything, is what sets Hirsch apart-her quick-change artistry and grab bag of astounding vocal personalities effect a sort of acoustic alchemy. It's a thing of wonder both playful and sobering... the CD is full of these kinds of surprises-moments of unexpected levity in the midst of melancholy, anguish, or rancor. In case anyone's forgotten, this is what art is supposed to do: surprise and challenge us. Hirsch does both, in spades."-Holly Tavel, Brooklyn Rail

"Where Were You Then" top 10 albums of the year, Pitar Slavi, Ernie Paik (the pulse), Harry Lachner

Shelley Hirsch and Uchihashi Kazusa: Duets

"One of the best pairings of personalities that one could imagine, Hirsch and Kazuhisa show all their magnificent talent in a flawless live recording. The American vocalist is her usual self, her interpretation ranging from one genre to another with a fantasy and an intelligence that are rare to see nowadays; her technical ability is well known, so is the sense of humour that she always puts in front of us, a trademark for which Shelley is recognizable at the first note she hits. Uchihashi Kazuhisa complements her in stunningly perfect fashion, accompanying and counterpointing through a fresh sense of technical abandon that never cancels the simple beauty of the "gesture of playing". His use of delays and effects to reach different timbral zones is a perfect balance to Shelley's crazy yet lucid evolutions. And when they try to subvert "In a sentimental mood" with their cross between anarchy and loving homage, well - I think that the circle is closed. This is a masterpiece."-Massimo Ricci


"States" is a major work, a stream of consciousness piece that transforms Hirsch from chanteuse to the girl next door, shy to boisterous, and a variety of unexpected characters in between. The music draws from a huge set of genres, including jazz, indian, pop, classical, soundtrack, noise and even recorded applause. Throughout, Hirsch took on the mantles of many characters in sweeping gestures, at times using her body itself as she beat her chest and shook to affect the quality of sound, whistling and making the kind of vocal noises your mother once demanded be stopped, but in context expressing the complex language of the piece.-Phil Zampino

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