Torn was born in Amityville, New York, and 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 six albums as a leader for the ECM, Windham Hill, CMP, and 75 Ark record labels. He has also recorded a series of CD-ROMs with looping and other ambient music and "integrated noise" materials that can be used as samples by other artists. Torn has contributed to recordings and toured with artists including David Bowie, kd lang, John Legend, 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.
He has produced a Grammy-winning recording for Jeff Beck, as well as many recordings for Tim Berne, Drew Gress, Dave Douglas (another Grammy nominee), Douglas September as well as many others.
Torn's contributions have been featured in a number of films, including Velvet Goldmine, Adaptation, The Big Lebowski, The Departed, Fur, The Hoax, Kalifornia, Traffic, Reversal of Fortune, Tibet, Three Kings, Everything Must Go, and so on. In 2006, Torn's film-score for Believe in Me won the Best Score-award at the Jackson Hole Film Festival; in 2005, he composed an evocative score to Friday Night Lights, and in 2003, his score for the film The Order was nominated for a Grammy Award.
He works out of his personal studios, known as Cell Labs; occasionally, he uses the pseudonym "splattercell".
In 2010, Torn released an EP under the name Chute. It's a five-track electronica collaboration with singer Donna Lewis.
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