Elliott Sharp (born Cleveland, Ohio, March 1, 1951) is an American multi-instrumentalist, composer, and performer.[1]



A central figure in the avant-garde and experimental music scene in New York City since the late 1970s,[2][3] Sharp has released over eighty-five recordings ranging from blues, jazz, and orchestral music to noise, no wave rock, and techno music. He pioneered the use of personal computers in live performance with his Virtual Stance project of the 1980s.[4] He has used algorithms and fibonacci numbers in experimental composition [5] since the 1970s.[6] He has cited literature as an inspiration for his music and often favors improvisation.[5] He is an inveterate performer, playing mainly guitar, saxophone and bass clarinet. Sharp has led many ensembles over the years, including the blues-oriented Terraplane and Orchestra Carbon.[7]


Sharp was classically trained in piano from an early age, taking up clarinet and guitar as a teen. He attended Cornell University from 1969 to 1971, studying anthropology, music, and electronics. He completed his B.A. degree at Bard College in 1973, where he studied composition with Benjamin Boretz and Elie Yarden; jazz composition, improvisation, and ethnomusicology with trombonist Roswell Rudd; and physics and electronics with Burton Brody. In 1977 he received an M.A. from the University at Buffalo, where he studied composition with Morton Feldman and Lejaren Hiller, and ethnomusicology with Charles Keil.[8]

From the late 1970s, Sharp established himself in New York's music scene. His compositions have been performed by the hr-Sinfonieorchester, the Ensemble Modern, Continuum, the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble, Kronos Quartet, the FLUX Quartet, Zeitkratzer, the Soldier String Quartet, the JACK Quartet, and the Quintet of the Americas. His work has been featured at festivals worldwide, including the 2008 New Music Stockholm festival, the 2007 Hessischer Rundfunk Klangbiennale, and the Venice Biennale 2003 and 2006. He releases music under his own label (zOaR music) as well as punk label SST and downtown music labels such as Knitting Factory records and John Zorn's Tzadik label. Guitar Player magazine's 30th anniversary issue included Sharp among their list of "The Dirty Thirty - Pioneers and Trailblazers".

He has collaborated regularly with many people, including Christian Marclay, Eric Mingus, Zeena Parkins, Vernon Reid, Bobby Previte, Joey Baron, David Torn, Nels Cline, and Frances-Marie Uitti, as well as qawaali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, blues legend Hubert Sumlin, actor/writer Eric Bogosian, jazz greats Jack DeJohnette and Sonny Sharrock, pop singer Debbie Harry, and Bachir Attar, leader of the Master Musicians of Jajouka. He was curator of the sound-art exhibition Volume: Bed of Sound for P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in 2001, which featured the works of 54 artists including Vito Acconci, Tod Dockstader, John Duncan, Walter Murch, Muhal Richard Abrams, Laurie Anderson, Chris & Cosey, Survival Research Laboratories, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sonic Youth, and Butch Morris.[9] He also curates the State of the Union CD compilations of one-minute tracks by experimental musicians, and produces records for a wide variety of artists. Sharp describes himself as a lifelong "science geek"[10] having modified and created musical instruments since his teen years, and frequently borrowing terms from science and technology for his compositions.

Sharp has composed scores for feature films and documentaries;[11] created music and sound-design for The Sundance Channel, MTV and Bravo networks; and has presented numerous sound installations in art galleries and museums.

He is the subject of Bert Shapiro's documentary Elliott Sharp: Doing the Don't, for Pheasant Eye Film.[12] He was a 2009 Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and a 2010 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow in music. In 2003 he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.[13] In March 2011, Sharp's 60th birthday was celebrated with a weekend of all-star concert events entitled "E#@60", hosted by Brooklyn's ISSUE Project Room.[14]

Sharp lives in lower Manhattan with designer/video artist Janene Higgins and their two children.



  • The Yahoos Trilogy(2013)
  • Octal Book Two (2010)
  • Tectonics - Abstraction Distraction (2010)
  • Concert in Dachau (2008)
  • Octal Book One (2008)
  • Solo Beijing (2007)
  • Sharp? Monk? Sharp! Monk! (2006)
  • Quadrature (2005)
  • Velocity of Hue (2004)
  • Tectonics - Errata (1999)
  • Tectonics - Field and Stream (1997)
  • Sferics (1996)
  • Tectonics (1995)
  • Westwerk (1992)
  • K!L!A!V! (1990)
  • Looppool (1988)
  • Rhythms and Blues (1980)
  • Resonance (1979)
File:Elliott Sharp 2.JPG

As a leaderEdit

with CarbonEdit

  • Void Coordinates (2010)
  • Serrate (2009)
  • Interference (1995)
  • Amusia (1994)
  • Autoboot (1994)
  • Truthtable (1993)
  • Tocsin (1991)
  • Sili/contemp/tation (1990)
  • Datacide (1989)
  • Monster Curve (1982)

with Orchestra CarbonEdit

  • Radiolaria (2001)
  • SyndaKit (1999)
  • Rheo~Umbra (1998)
  • Spring & Neap (1997)
  • Abstract Repressionism: 1990-99 (1992)
  • Larynx (1988, 2007)

String QuartetsEdit

  • Elliott Sharp String Quartets 2002-2007 (2008) with The Sirius String Quartet
  • Elliott Sharp String Quartets 1986-1996 (2003) with Soldier String Quartet and The Meridian Quartet
  • A Modicum of Passion (2004) with (vocals) Devorah Day, Ben Miller, Eric Mingus, Joan Wasser; and (strings) Stephanie Griffin, Conrad Harris, Amy Kimball, Garo Yellin
  • XenocodeX (1996) with Soldier String Quartet
  • Cryptid Fragments (1993) with Margaret Parkins, Michelle Kinney, Sara Parkins, and Soldier String Quartet
  • Twistmap (1991) with Soldier String Quartet
  • Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup (1987) with Soldier String Quartet and Carbon


  • Racing Hearts, Tessalation Row, Calling (2003)

with TerraplaneEdit

  • Terraplane - Sky Road Songs (2012) with Hubert Sumlin
  • Terraplane - Forgery (2008)
  • Terraplane - Secret Life (2005)
  • Terraplane - Do the Don't (2003) with Hubert Sumlin
  • Terraplane - Music fr Yellowman (2002)
  • Terraplane - Blues for Next (2000)
  • Terraplane (1994)


Collaborative groupsEdit

As producerEdit

As a compilation producerEdit

  • I Never Met a Guitar (Clean Feed, 2010)
  • Secular Steel (Gaff Music, 2004)
  • Timebomb: Live at the Clocktower Gallery (P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 1997)
  • State of the Union 2.001 (Electronic Music Foundation, 2001)
  • State of the Union (Atavistic, 1996)
  • State of the Union (MuWorks, 1993)
  • Real Estate (Ear-Rational, 1990)
  • Island of Sanity (No Man's Land, 1987)
  • State of the Union (zOaR, 1992)
  • Peripheral Vision (zOaR, 1982)

Recorded film scores and score compilationsEdit

  • Spectropia Suite (2010) Score to the sci-fi feature film by Toni Dove performed by the 31 Band, Sirius String Quartet, and special guest Debbie Harry
  • Q-Mix (2009)
  • Soundtrack for the film What Sebastian Dreamt (2005)
  • Soundtrack for the film Commune (2005)
  • Suspension of Disbelief (compilation) (2001)
  • Figure Ground (compilation) (1997)

Film appearancesEdit

  • Elliott Sharp: Doing the Don't (2008 DVD documentary)
  • The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music (2007 DVD)
  • Elliott Sharp: The Velocity of Hue. Live in Cologne (2007 DVD)
  • April in New York with Bobby Previte (2007 DVD)
  • Roulette TV: Elliott Sharp. Roulette Intermedium Inc. (2000 DVD)
  • Record Player: Christian Marclay (2000 DVD)

Music composed for filmEdit

  • Spectropia (2006)
  • Commune (2005)
  • The Time We Killed (2004)
  • What Sebastian Dreamt (2003)
  • Daddy and the Muscle Academy (1991)
  • Antigone/Rites of Passion (1990)
  • The Salt Mines (1990)


  • Suspension (2004): 2-channel installation of video and sound exploring the awareness of momentary stillness in the metropolis. Collaboration with video artist Janene Higgins, for The Chelsea Art Museum, NYC.
  • Fluvial (2002): A system for flowing audio to create moving sound currents within the enclosed space of the Engine 27 gallery in NYC, Fluvial uses randomization, filtering, and feedback as its basic processing elements to make full use of the room's spatialization potential.
  • Chromatine (2001): Both musical instrument and sculpture, encouraging visitors to touch the sculpture and cause it to play music. For the Gallery of the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
  • Tag (1997): An interactive audio installation created for the Departure Lounge exhibition at the Clocktower Gallery of P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York City.
  • Distressed Vivaldi (1996): Soundtrack created for the Model Home exhibition at the Clocktower Gallery of P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York City.

External linksEdit

Template:Commons category

Further readingEdit


  1. Classical Composers Database
  2. Atlantic Center has new batch of artists in residence Orlando Sentinel October 2009
  3. Interview by Mike McGonigal BOMB 84/Summer 2003
  4. Maris, E. Elliott Sharp/Tectonics:Solo Beijing Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter, April 26, 2007
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ambrose, P. Elliott Sharp’s Instrumental Vision The Morning News, October 4, 2005
  6. Tessalation Row,Elliott Sharp with the Soldier String Quartet All Music Guide
  7. Cleveland, B. Elliott Sharp Guitar Player magazine, April 2007
  8. Sachs, J. From Downtown Manhattan to Finland and Beyond New Juilliard Journal Online September 2001
  9. VOLUME: Bed of Sound Henry Art Gallery
  10. Kruth, J. Interview with Elliott Sharp Perfect Sound Forever, November 2001
  11. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB): Elliott Sharp
  12. Bert Shapiro's documentary Elliott Sharp: Doing the Don't
  13. Grant recipients 2003 Foundation for Contemporary Arts
  14. An Auspicious Beginning for Elliott Sharps Seventh Decade The Brooklyn Rail, April 2011
  15. Roussel, P. Elliott Sharp discography


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