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Born and raised in New York City, Hirsch dropped out of high school and moved to San Francisco, California, where she worked in experimental theater, explored extended vocal techniques, and began composing pieces for voice. In Berlin she had her first totally free improvised music concert with Sven-Åke Johansson, deepened in collaborations with Jon Rose and - back in New York City - with Christian Marclay.
Several of Hirsch's works were commissioned by New American Radio, including #39 and The Vidzer Family (1991), and O Little Town of East New York (1992), which won first prize at the Prix Futura International Media Competition in Berlin.
She has appeared at festivals throughout Europe and performed at the Kitchen, Roulette, BAM and other venues in New York. She appears on the recordings of John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, Jim Staley and many others. Her regular partners are Christian Marclay, Ikue Mori, David Weinstein and Anthony Coleman. In 1988 she released the LP "Singing" and a year later another LP/CD "Haiku Lingo" with Weinstein. Her most recent work "O Little Town of East New York" can be found on Zorn's label Tzadik in the series "Radical Jewish Culture". Hirsch also collaborated with DJ Olive, Mark Dresser, Greetje Bijma, Chantal Dumas, David Moss, Min Xiao Fen, Jerry Hunt, Toshio Kajiwara, Jin Hi Kim, Marina Rosenfeld and Ned Rothenberg. She recorded with September Band (Rüdiger Carl, Hans Reichel and Paul Lovens) and with X-Communication (Butch Morris, Martin Schütz and Hans Koch), too. Hirsch can also be heard interpreting compositions such as Cathy Berberian's „Stripsody“ or Alvin Curran's Philharmonie.
Hirsch has also collaborated with visual artists Barbara Bloom and Jim Hodges, choreographer Noémie Lafrance, and filmmakers Nina Danino (Temenos soundtrack with Sainkho Namtchylak, 2001), Zoe Beloff, Abigail Childs, and Lee Sachs. In 2008 her piece "In the Basement" was included on the compilation album Crosstalk: American Speech Music (Bridge Records) produced by Mendi + Keith Obadike.
- Page, Tim (20 September 1983). "STAGE: SHELLEY HIRSCH, SINGER". The New York Times. p. 19. Retrieved 19 July 2012.