Sxip Shirey

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Sxip Shirey
Shirey instruments.jpg
Shirey with some of his tools
Background information
Birth name Gene Shirey
Born Athens, Ohio
Genres Electoacoustic, dark cabaret, etc.
Occupation(s) Composer, performer, story-teller
Labels Nonesuch Records
Associated acts Gentlemen & Assassins, Luminescent Orchestrii, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Daredevil Opera Company
Website Official website

Gene "Sxip" Shirey (pronounced "skip"[1]) is an American electric-acoustic composer, performer, and story-teller. Currently based in New York City, he is known for working with found objects, traditional instruments, and computer and rare modified instruments. Shirey has released three solo albums, including Sonic New York in 2010. Shirey is a member of The Daredevil Opera Company and is a founding member of the band Luminescent Orchestrii, as well as the band Gentlemen & Assassins. He is the host and producer of Sxip's Hour of Charm, a variety show of cabaret acts.[2]

Early life[edit]

Shirey grew up in Athens, Ohio.[3] He graduated from Ohio University, and having studied physics and folk guitar, he moved to New York in the late-1980s.[4] He currently resides in Brooklyn.[3]



Shirey started experimenting with found sound composition and extended instrument techniques when asked to compose music for Ohio University’s modern dance department[citation needed]. This eventually took him to New York City and he has been performing in venues ranging from underground clubs in Brooklyn to a TED, to Europe and to the Sydney Opera House.[citation needed]

A founding member of the band Luminescent Orchestrii in 2002,[5][6] Shirey has released three albums with The Luminescent Orchestrii and one EP on Nonesuch Records as a collaboration between Luminescent Orchestrii and the Carolina Chocolate Drops.[citation needed] Shirey is also a member of The Daredevil Opera Company.[7]

Solo albums and scores[edit]

See also: Sonic New York

Shirey has released three solo albums, with the first in 2006.

About Statuesque, a 2009 short film by Neil Gaiman with a score by Shirey,[4] Lily Percy of NPR wrote "The work stars Bill Nighy and is silent save for Shirey's haunting score — marked by an assortment of moody piano melodies, bells and chimes — which sets the tone for a dramatic take on a Mannequin-esque love story."[8] It was featured in an 11 part series for Sky TV in the United Kingdom.[9]

About his 2010 solo album Sonic New York, Huffington Post wrote that "the collection of 17 pieces range from chanted poetry to raw blues to ghostly choirs to folk songs to a postmodern dance track and more."[10] NPR reviewed the song "In Awe Of The City Skyline" in August 2010, describing it as "wistful," explaining that it "captures a singer's unique, complicated romance with New York City." The review also praised the duet between Shirey and Aimee Curl.[8] He has had two songs featured as NPR's Song of the Day.[citation needed]

About one of his live performances at the time,[11] which often feature Shirey recruiting audience members to assist with instruments,[12] Huffington Post wrote "every noise wrung out of a piece of cheap plastic or kazoo or run through his complicated amplification, stood on its own and had something authentic to say about sound and its resonance with the human nervous system. It was experimental, but it was confident and real - definitely not ironic."[11]


Previous performance highlights include featured presenter at TED, support act for Dresden Dolls US tour, Ashley Capp's Big Ears Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia, Floyd Fest, Joe's Pub, The Knitting Factory and CBGB's in New York City.[citation needed]

He scored five silent films such as "A Trip to the Moon" by Georges Méliès in collaboration with The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.[13]

Shirey has played exploding circus organ for the Daredevil Opera Company at the Sydney Opera House and the Kennedy Center,[citation needed] industrial flutes for acrobats at The New Victory Theater on Broadway,[citation needed] tamponophone with The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus at Bonnaroo,[citation needed] hillbilly music for gypsies in Transylvania[citation needed].

In a band called Gentlemen & Assassins with another member of Dresden Dolls, Brian Viglione and Elyas Khan of Nervous Cabaret. They performed a show at Theater Dortmund with Sonic Youth and Dresden Dolls producer Martin Bisi[14][15]

He is the host and producer of Sxip's Hour of Charm, a variety show of cabaret acts. Hour of Charm regularly occurs in New York City, usually at Joe's Pub, but has been taken on the road to the American Repertory Theatre,[2] the Rothbury Music Festival[16] and other venues. hirey also hosted and curated the multi-part Charm Sessions featuring live international music from NYC for Radio Scotland.[citation needed] Shirey has toured Ireland and Wales as a duo, "Sxip and Rhi" with Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops.[citation needed]

Musicians, artists, and sound generators who have performed with Shirey include Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley, Reggie Watts, Corn Mo, Bora Yoon, Project Jenny, Project Jan, Elyas Khan, Brian Viglione, Curtis Eller, The Red Bastard, Una Mimnagh, Greg Walloch, Scotty The Blue Bunny, Jonathan Nosan, AJ Silver.[17] Toured with Féloche.[18] and Evelyn Evelyn for whom he provided an elaborate shadow puppet show.[19]


At the request of the American Music Center,[citation needed] Shirey developed composing workshops that drew inspiration from Ann Bogart’s Viewpoints, Foley techniques and deep listening. These workshops allow composers to develop strategies to use voice, found objects and found sounds, and extended techniques for traditional instruments to create new work.

Shirey was invited to be a guest lecturer at the Norwegian Institute of Art in February 2012 and September 2013.[citation needed] The English National Opera ran his workshop for young composers (and composing music for a short film) in March 2012[citation needed]. He has also run his workshop at Trinity College, Oxford England and for the animation department at Harvard.[citation needed]

Style and equipment[edit]

"His music sounds like stories. He works in the places where noise becomes music and does things that make you realize there are no boundaries between noise and music—or not like you imagine."
— Neil Gaiman in The Wall Street Journal[4]

Shirey work utilizes found objects, traditional instruments, computer and modified instruments such as Industrial Flutes, Bullhorn Harmonicas, Regurgitated Music Box, Triple Extended Pennywhistles, Miniature Handbells, and other curious objects.

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer made a musical instrument, called the "Sxipenspiel" for Shirey's birthday. It is made of a candlestick, pipe and bicycle bells. A sample of Neil and Sxip playing it features at the beginning of Shirey's former Gentlemen & Assassins bandmate Elyas Khan's single, "Bells".[20][21]


With The Luminescent Orchestrii[edit]

  • 2004: Luminescent Orchestrii
  • 2007: Too Hot to Sleep
  • 2009: Neptune's Daughter
  • 2011: Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii EP

With Gentlemen & Assassins[edit]

  • 2012: Mother Says We're Innocent

Solo albums[edit]

Albums by Sxip Shirey, with hidden track listings
Year Album title Release details
  • Released: Nov 15, 2006
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: digital
  • Released: May 2, 2010
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: digital


Selected compositions by Sxip Shirey
Yr Title Media Type Shirey's role Premier/release date
2007 The City Documentary Composer, actor
Marsupial Girl Children's theater Composer, music director The Minneapolis Children's Theater[13]
2008 Hotel Gramercy Park Feature film by Douglas Keeve Composer[13]
2009 Statuesque Short film by Neil Gaiman Composer[22]
The Why Film Composer
GIMP Dance by The GIMP Project Composer The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston[13]
(with Rachelle Garniez)
Performance and score Composer, performer MOMA's Tribute to Salvador Dalí.[13]
20 Song for Lizzie Score Composer Boston Pops at Symphony Hall[22]
2011 A Trip to the Moon/etc. Silent films (5) by Georges Méliès Composer[13] Museum of the Moving Image[23]
Women of Troy/Lysistrata Puppet theater by Theodora Skipitaras Composer, performer La Mama[13][24]
2012 Bendito Machine IV Short film Composer
2013 Limbo Cabaret by Strut and Fret Prod. Composer, performer[25]

Further reading[edit]

External video
Shirey giving a TED Talk in 2008
Articles and interviews

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "From Brooklyn to Balkans: Luniniscent Orchestrii's Gypsy Punk". [dead link]
  2. ^ a b "Past Productions: SXIP'S HOUR OF CHARM". Archived from the original on 2008-04-05. Retrieved 2008-06-22. 
  3. ^ a b "Sxip Shirey - About". 
  4. ^ a b c Dollar, Steve (May 13, 2011). "A Mad Scientist of Musical Machinery". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  5. ^ "Luminescent Orchestrii". 
  6. ^ "Luminescent Orchestrii - BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - Folk / Punk / Classical". 
  7. ^ "The Daredevil Opera Company". 
  8. ^ a b Percy, Lily (August 13, 2010). "Sxip Shirey: In Awe Of The City Skyline". NPR. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  9. ^ Gaiman, Neil (November 17, 2009). "Revealed! The Rulers of the Darkness of This World". Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  10. ^ Price, Holly Cara (July 18, 2010). "Sxip Shirey's Magic Journey: Sonic New York". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-02-02. 
  11. ^ a b Larner, Jesse (July 22, 2010). "Sxip Shirey and Sonic New York". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  12. ^ KOZINN, ALLAN (February 8, 2012). "Chemistry With a Toybox of Instruments (Paper Clips Included)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g "Show Listing Details - New York Innovative Theatre Awards". Retrieved 2015-02-16. 
  14. ^ "Arte Gentlemen & Assassins". 
  15. ^ "Gentlemen & Assassins". 
  16. ^ "Rothbury Music Festival - Circus and Theatre". Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  17. ^ "Sxip's Hour of Charm and Sonic New York". 
  18. ^ "Wir präsentieren: Féloche auf Tour!", FastForward Magazine, September 2010 
  19. ^ "One Night With Evelyn Evelyn, Amanda Palmer’s Conjoined-Twin Creation", New York Magazine, June 14, 2010 
  20. ^ "The origins of the Sxipenspiel". 
  21. ^ ""Bells" by Elyas Khan, featuring The Sxipenspiel". 
  22. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2015-02-16. 
  23. ^ "Museum of the Moving Image - Visit - Calendar - Magic, Music and Early Movies: Georges Méliès and Sxip Shirey". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  24. ^ Saltz, Rachel (February 8, 2011). "When the Puppets Called a Sex Strike". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-02-15. 
  25. ^ "Limbo - Strut & Fret Productions". 

External links[edit]

Audio and video