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 seven acclaimed books, including Rap Attack (1984), Ocean of Sound (1995), Sinister Resonance (2010) and Into the Maelstrom (2016), the latter a Guardian music book of the year, shortlisted for the Penderyn Music Book Prize. 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 thirteen 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 on Lawrence English’s ROOM40 (2016). 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 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) 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 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, released on Audika in October 2017, Suttle Sculpture (Paul Burwell and David Toop live, 1977) released on Sub Rosa, 2018, and John Cage: Electronic Music for Piano with Tania Chen, Thurston Moore and Jon Leidecker, released on Omnivore, 2018.. He is currently Professor of Audio Culture and Improvisation at London College of Communication.

the sweat of toads

“I was in search of something – a small detail which I remembered with special intensity as part of my vision.” George Eliot: The Lifted Veil (1859)   The man whispers in Spanish as he pisses, sniffs, sighs, washes his … Continue reading

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many private concerts

I was obsessed with the slippery, unstable nature of the categories through which we learn to divide experience: time, the materiality of objects and the imperceptible slide into intangibility, what some called spirit though I would reject the word for … Continue reading

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a voice, uncanny instrument

The Quiet Coach on a train is often a site of tension. So when three male off-shore workers, all of them drunk as wasps drowning in a whiskey vat, decided to occupy a table just by the sign that said … Continue reading

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stick, spit, reed and tubing

  “Or maybe the music we are hearing tells us about the unconscious, coming from some place of archetypes or from the trauma of unspeakable secrets.” Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, Timothy Morton.   There … Continue reading

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Skin and Bone Listening

How to be, where to be, in a space, with sound, with other bodies? For me, in relation to what performance is becoming, this has been the biggest question of the past year. What does it mean to hear? What … Continue reading

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that lead beneath brambles to the bodies and minds of others

The book jacket is designed by Vanessa Bell, sister to Virginia Woolf. Her drawing for the front of the jacket is of trees and grasses, many black pen lines pulling and curling in vortical movement, little differentiation made between figure … Continue reading

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Automatic writing

Robert Ashley’s death last week gave me the odd feeling that I should have been listening to more of his music. Absurd really, to self-impose a kind of obligation to consume. The truth is I loved his work but never … Continue reading

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