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David Torn

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David Torn
Torn in 2015
Torn in 2015
Background information
Born (1953-05-26) May 26, 1953 (age 71)
Amityville, New York, U.S.
GenresJazz, jazz fusion
Occupation(s)Musician, producer

David M. Torn (born May 26, 1953)[1] is an American guitarist, composer, and producer. He is known for combining electronic and acoustic instruments and for his use of looping.


Torn has contributed to recordings by artists as diverse as David Bowie, k.d. lang, John Legend, Madonna, Tori Amos, Bill Bruford, Tony Levin, Mick Karn, David Sylvian, Chocolate Genius, Michael Shrieve, Steve Roach, Patrick O'Hearn, Andy Rinehart, Matt Chamberlain, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Don Cherry.

In addition to his composition work, Torn's music has been featured in a wide variety of films, including Friday Night Lights, Velvet Goldmine, Adaptation, The Big Lebowski, The Departed, Fur, The Hoax, Kalifornia, Traffic, Reversal of Fortune, Tibet, and Three Kings. He studied with Leonard Bernstein (within the "Music for Young Composers" series), as well as with guitarists John Abercrombie, Pat Martino, Paul Weiss, and Arthur Basile.[2] Torn works out of his personal studios, known as Cell Labs; occasionally, he uses the pseudonym "splattercell."

The New York Times described Torn's 2015 solo release, Only Sky, as "[an abstract landscape that is] both immersive and deftly disorienting."[3]


Torn was born in Amityville, New York,[1] He is married to Linda B. Brecht-Torn (b. 1952). David Torn is the son of Lawrence J. Torn (1926-2017) and Rhoda G. Torn (1927-2010); he is the father of electronic musician Elijah B. Torn (b. 1979) and Cody M. Torn (b. 1983). He is the brother of Marsha Torn and Linda Torn, and he was a cousin of actor Rip Torn (1931-2019). He is the cousin of Angelica Torn (b. 1964), and Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa).

Torn began his career with the Ithaca-based jam band Zobo Funn Band in the 1970s, and rose to prominence as a member of The Everyman Band and Jan Garbarek's quartet in the mid-1980s. He has recorded solo and group recordings for the ECM, Windham Hill, CMP and 75 Ark labels.

In the 1990s, Torn was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, in his case, a life-threatening form of brain tumor. The surgery that followed left him deaf in the right ear but he remains able to compose, record, and play. He mixes many widely available recordings himself, although according to him this requires sitting sideways to the studio speakers and "visualising the stereo aspects of sound" in his head rather than experimenting with them by ear.[4]

In 2006, Torn's film score for Believe in Me won the Best Score-award at the Jackson Hole Film Festival. In 2003, his score for the film The Order was nominated for a Grammy Award.

Torn in 2008

In 2007, Torn released Prezens with Tim Berne. Jazzwise called the album "a vibrating collage full of shimmering sonic shapes, a dark, urban electronic soundscape–a potent mix of jazz, free-form rock and technology that is both demanding and rewarding."[5]

In 2013, Torn performed as a guitarist on David Bowie's penultimate album, The Next Day[6]—his third collaboration with the artist. In the same year, Torn had a solo guitar performance and talk at TEDx Caltech 2013: The Brain. The presentation examined his brain tumor diagnosis and recovery.[7]

Instruments and effects[edit]

As a session artist, composer, and producer, David Torn has experimented with many effects boxes, amplifiers, and instruments, and he has spoken with amplifier designers and pedal builders about their craft. In an interview with Premier Guitar magazine following the release of his solo album Only Sky, he shared an extensive list of the instruments and effects he uses. He plays a Ronin Mirari guitar with Foilbucker pickups and also lists a large number of amplifiers such as a Fryette Aether amplifier, and many guitar effects pedals including the TC Electronic Classic TC XII Phaser, Catalinbread Antichthon, DigiTech Whammy DT, and the Neunaber Stereo Wet Reverb.[8]


As leader[edit]

With Everyman Band

  • Everyman Band (ECM, 1982)
  • Without Warning (ECM, 1985)

As sideman[edit]

With Bruford Levin Upper Extremities

With David Bowie

With Mark Isham

  • Castalia (Virgin, 1988)
  • Tibet (Windham Hill, 1989)
  • Mark Isham (Virgin, 1990)
  • Reversal of Fortune (Milan, 1991)
  • Blue Sun (Columbia, 1995)

With Patrick O'Hearn

  • Trust (Deep Cave, 1995)
  • Metaphor (Deep Cave, 1996)
  • So Flows the Current (Patrickohearn.com 2001)

With Ryuichi Sakamoto

  • Discord (Gut for Life 1997)
  • Cinemage (Sony, 1999)
  • Moto.tronic (Sony 2003)

With David Sylvian

  • Secrets of the Beehive (Virgin, 1987)
  • Orpheus (Virgin, 1988)
  • Weatherbox (Virgin, 1989)
  • Everything and Nothing (Virgin, 2000)
  • Camphor (Virgin, 2002)

With others

Film and television[edit]


  1. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 2515. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  2. ^ "david torn official site". Davidtorn.net. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  3. ^ "David Torn, Jazz Events". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "David Torn - Fate is not completely decided". Innerviews. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  5. ^ "David Torn: ECM Records release celebration". Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  6. ^ "David Bowie's Guitarist Talks 'The Next Day' Album: 'I've Been Under A Gag Order For Six Months'". Huffingtonpost.co.uk. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  7. ^ "David Torn | tedxcaltech.com". Tedxcaltech.caltech.edu. January 18, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  8. ^ Jason Shadrick. "David Torn: Alone at Last". Premierguitar.com. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  9. ^ Fordham, John (August 24, 2017). "Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Incidentals review – creative and visceral live set". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  10. ^ "Splattercell.com". 5.plattercell.com. Archived from the original on December 12, 2006.
  11. ^ a b "David Torn: Credits". AllMusic.
  12. ^ "David Torn - Filmography - Movies & TV - NYTimes.com". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. January 18, 2007. Archived from the original on April 11, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  13. ^ "No Country For Old Men". Carter Burwell. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  14. ^ "Velvet Goldmine". Carter Burwell. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
  15. ^ "ProgDay Sonar Page". Progday.net. Archived from the original on August 28, 2017. Retrieved August 28, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]