The universal veil that hangs together like a skin

Aurora consurgens, late 14th century

A rising creature spreads its shadow over hushed land. In the moment of folding its wings, all air leaves the world. All things now operate by friction, stridulation, rough surfaces in contact with abrasion, materials unlike silk or plastic, the working of ground teeth and jaw bones.

Twelfth key, The Golden Tripod, or, Three Choice Chemical Tracts, edited by Michael Maier, 1618

In the blacksmith’s forge, an alchemist sits away from the fire in a clouded spot, observing those transforming states that move from hard to soft, from dull to radiant. From trees a presence emanates, as thick as wet moss and mud. Birds move within it, their shapes only visible with closed eyes.

fermentation, Aurora consurgens, late 14th century

At night, people sleep with covered ears, their dreams haunted by the footsteps of giants, the slow movement of hills, cracks opening in the earth to unleash insect clouds. Houses lack windows, yet light penetrates, if only to mark daily transitions between stillness and movement, heat to cold. If there are bells, they are heard only in memory, as if buried under silt on the bed of a fathomless pond. To sit quietly is rewarded. A shout is impossible.

Aurora consurgens, late 14th century

Every month a door is opened, simply to change the air. This opening may take many hours, the door hinges resistant, anguished, uttering secret words that only the very old and very young can understand. At each opening, a wooden cart enters, another leaves. The ox that pulls one cart looks sideways at the horse that pulls the other, their gaze as deep as the silence through which they pass. As the trembling of the ground subsides, the world returns to itself.

Written for the release of The Universal Veil That Hangs Together Like a Skin, Lee Patterson & Samo Kutin, Edition FriForma, 2020.

About davidtoop

Ricocheting as a 1960s teenager between blues guitarist, art school dropout, Super 8 film loops and psychedelic light shows, David Toop has been developing a practice that crosses boundaries of sound, listening, music and materials since 1970. This practice encompasses improvised music performance (using hybrid assemblages of electric guitars, aerophones, bone conduction, lo-fi archival recordings, paper, sound masking, water, autonomous and vibrant objects), writing, electronic sound, field recording, exhibition curating, sound art installations and opera (Star-shaped Biscuit, performed in 2012). It includes eight acclaimed books, including Rap Attack (1984), Ocean of Sound (1995), Sinister Resonance (2010), Into the Maelstrom (2016, a Guardian music book of the year, shortlisted for the Penderyn Music Book Prize), Flutter Echo (2019) and Inflamed Invisible (2019). Briefly a member of David Cunningham’s pop project The Flying Lizards (his guitar can be heard sampled on “Water” by The Roots), he has released fifteen solo albums, from New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments on Brian Eno’s Obscure label (1975) and Sound Body on David Sylvian’s Samadhisound label (2006) to Entities Inertias Faint Beings (2016) and Apparition Paintings (2020) on Lawrence English’s ROOM40 label. His 1978 Amazonas recordings of Yanomami shamanism and ritual - released on Sub Rosa as Lost Shadows (2016) - were called by The Wire a “tsunami of weirdness” while Entities Inertias Faint Beings was described in Pitchfork as “an album about using sound to find one’s own bearings . . . again and again, understated wisps of melody, harmony, and rhythm surface briefly and disappear just as quickly, sending out ripples that supercharge every corner of this lovely, engrossing album.” In the early 1970s he performed with sound poet Bob Cobbing, butoh dancer Mitsutaka Ishii and drummer Paul Burwell, along with key figures in improvisation, including Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Georgie Born, Hugh Davies, John Stevens, Lol Coxhill, Frank Perry and John Zorn. In recent years he has returned to collaborative performance, working with many artists and musicians including Rie Nakajima, Akio Suzuki, Max Eastley, Tania Caroline Chen, John Butcher, Ken Ikeda, Elaine Mitchener, Henry Grimes, Sharon Gal, Camille Norment, Sidsel Endresen, Alasdair Roberts, Thurston Moore, Jennifer Allum, Miya Masaoka, Extended Organ (with Paul McCarthy and Tom Recchion), Ryuichi Sakamoto and a revived Alterations, the iconoclastic improvising quartet with Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack and Terry Day first formed in 1977. He has also made many collaborative records, including Buried Dreams and Doll Creature with Max Eastley, Breath Taking with Akio Suzuki, Skin Tones with Ken Ikeda, Garden of Shadows and Light with Ryuichi Sakamoto and co-productions (with Steve Beresford) for Frank Chickens, the 49 Americans and Ivor Cutler. Major sound art exhibitions he has curated include Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery, London (2000) and Playing John Cage at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol (2005-6). In 2008, a DVD of the Belgian film – I Never Promised You a Rose Garden: A Portrait of David Toop Through His Records Collection – was released by Sub Rosa, and in 2017 his autobiography – Flutter Echo: Living Within Sound – was published by Du Books in Japan. His most recent records are Dirty Songs Play Dirty Songs (Audika, 2017), Suttle Sculpture (Paul Burwell and David Toop live, 1977, Sub Rosa, 2018), John Cage: Electronic Music for Piano with Tania Chen, Thurston Moore and Jon Leidecker (Omnivore, 2018), Apparition Paintings (ROOM40, 2020), Field Recordings and Fox Spirits (ROOM40, 2020), Until the Night Melts Away (with Sharon Gal and John Butcher, Shrike, 2021) and Garden of Shadows and Light (with Ryuichi Sakamoto, 33-33, 2021). He is Professor Emeritus at London College of Communication.
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2 Responses to The universal veil that hangs together like a skin

  1. Fran Checa says:

    Hi Professor,
    I hope I could reach to you with this message. I’m Fran and I’ve been a huge researcher of all your trilogy production about Hip-Hop all over the years. I’m currently working on my PhD dissertation about Spanish rap on its sociolinguistics and literature construction in the University of Granada (UGR).

    It would be a pleasure if I could talk to you privately and extend my invitation to participate in the “I Encuentro Internacional. Repensar el Hip Hop. Prácticas, cuerpos y territorios” in February. It would be virtual and you could give a lecture in English. For me it’d be a fantastic opportunity to help spreading all your intellectual work.

    If this is appropiate, please contact me by email:

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