Author Archives: davidtoop

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.

The universal veil that hangs together like a skin

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 … Continue reading

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In the Cave of Sound

“To him who is a cave in which my shout echoes.” Victor Segalen, from Stèles (1912). How was it, and when was it, that I encountered Victor Segalen’s peculiar little novel, Dans Un Monde Sonore, published in 1907? Probably when … Continue reading

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head peelers

Extracts from a collaborative text written by David Toop and Marie Roux, published in Marie Roux’s photobook, The Head Peelers, published in an edition of 40, 2021. A wandering adventure was my starting point. This is what I find exciting. … Continue reading

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on&on&on&on: Daniel Blumberg

“And now he was playing, alas, the piano,” the first sentence of Robert Walser’s short prose text written in 1925, “making it sound like a deep and intimate promise, which isn’t at all the way to start a novel.” An … Continue reading

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emanation, as if by a charm: Ami Yamasaki

Surprise is a dubious pleasure, cultivated in the search for musical forms that take the listener into realms of impossible/imaginary. Then suddenly, after decades of searching, the surprises diminish in quantity, often in quality, leaving an unavoidable sense of melancholy, … Continue reading

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FOLD

Nine people sitting on the basement floor folding paper into origami birds, four microphones hanging from the ceiling, a loudspeaker pair at each end of the room. A sound going on, unmistakeably but ambiguously emanating from this activity, suggestive of … Continue reading

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gone to earth

Maybe a coincidence but during our Sharpen Your Needles event last night (28.09.17) Evan Parker played “Music for Mbale (Ndokpa)”, from The Photographs of Charles Duvelle: Disques Ocora and Collection Prophet, a sumptuous book and two CDs published by Sublime … Continue reading

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listening is intimacy

 Within listening is intimacy. The path to intimacy – with phenomena, other beings, objects, time, sensuality, the aliveness of things – lies through listening. A passing through. Seiji Morimoto, holding a rectangular metal box, slight movement, angled towards and away … Continue reading

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a distributed conglomerate instrument

While eating shojin ryori cuisine outdoors at Izusen, Daitokuji temple, Kyoto, in spring sunshine, April past, I reflected on François Jullien’s In Praise of Blandness, the appreciation of blandness or insipidity in ancient Chinese aesthetics and ritual practices. Commenting on … Continue reading

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and so it was the blues falling upon us

and so it was the blues falling upon us . . . like a lot of other people, my head was burning and turning from the reality of an American president in 2017 unwilling after Charlottesville to fully distance himself … Continue reading

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