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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.