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David Toop (1949 - )

Related: The Wire (magazine) - British literature - music criticism - music journalism

Articles: The A to Z of Dub (1994) - The A to Z of Electro (1998)

Books: Ocean of Sound (1995)

Ocean of Sound (1995) - David Toop [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


David Toop (born 1949) is an English musician, author, and as of 2001 was visiting Research Fellow at the London Media School. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toop,_David [Jan 2006].

Contributor to The Wire

Ocean of Sound (1995) has been very influential on this author.

His Site



  • http://www.furious.com/perfect/toop.html Perfect Magazine, interview with David Toop
  • The A to Z of Electro In its original incarnation, Electro was black science fiction teleported to the dancefloors of New York, Miami and LA; a super-stoopid fusion of video games, techno-pop, graffiti art, silver space suits and cyborg funk. Now that Electro is back, David Toop provides a thumbnail guide to the music that posed the eternal question: 'Watupski, bug byte?'
  • The A to Z of Dub David Toop is your guide on our whistlestop tour through the echo chamber
  • Steven Harvey I guess you know that David Toop and Sue Steward published Collusion in London back in the 80's

    Simon Reynolds on David Toop

    [David] Toop has recently retired from what he reckons is the "absurdity" of criticism in order to devote all his energy to the "potency" of experimental musicianship. Hmmm -- see, I thought the problem was actually the other way around: too much "good" music about, not enough visionary writing to make it all seem like it matters. Rather than an ancillary, supplementary, parasitical adjunct to the "real creativity", the leading edge of music-writing (of which Toop is definitely a component) has always been for me as much of a trip as the music itself. Still, if he's dedicating himelf to creating oneiric, polytendrilled, timbral extravaganzas like this one, good luck to him. Simon Reynolds via hisFaves 1997

    Further reading

    1. Exotica (1999) - David Toop [Amazon.com]
      Arguably the most intelligent music critic writing, August 17, 1999

      David Toop is arguably the most intelligent music critic writing today, his range of interests prospecting across an avant garde canvas coloured by the 20th century's foremost writers, thinkers and musicians.

      Although Toop's subject is predominantly that of fabricated soundscapes in a real world, a music which has come to be categorised as exotica, his roots are literary and extend to novelistic cosmographers like Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad and William Burroughs. Toop is erudite, but refreshingly unacademic in the way his texts are interspersed with autobiography, anecdote, interviews and fiction. Bringing imaginative criticism to bear on a range of subjects from the beginnings of ethnic music to Josephine Baker and Yma Sumac, Les Baxter and Martin Denny, Toop succeeds in aligning the concept of the exotic with world music. In a century in which we have grown to be increasingly interiorised, television often providing our point of contact with the external world, so music has come to assume the role of transporting geography into our rooms. In this respect Les Baxter's floridly contrived soundscapes prove central to Toop's thesis, for Baxter was throughout the 1950's to offer his listeners package tours in sound. According to Toop Baxter's music provided 'running excursions for sedentary tourists who wanted to stroll around some taboo urges before lunch, view a pagan ceremony through gaps in the bamboo, go wild in the sun or conjure a demon, all without leaving home stereo comforts in the whitebread suburbs.' Baxter's albums carried titles such as Caribbean moonlight, Jewels of the Sea, Ritual of the Savage and Ports of Pleasure, and by hinting at sexual licentiousness in exotic landscapes, the music was to prove irresistible to a 1950's record buying public.

      Toop is particularly good on inventive vocalists like Josephine Baker and Yma Sumac. When Baker arrived in Paris in 1925 as a dancer with La Revue Négre, she caused a sensation by exposing her breasts when she danced. Aspiring to chanson, she injected the medium with her atavistic African roots, so as to create an exotic vocal genre.

      Yma Sumac noted for her collaboration with Les Baxter on Voice of the Xtabay, was an extraordinarily volatile singer of South American ancestry noted for her multi-octave range and freakishly histrionic tone. Sumac shared with Baxter and Denny the ability to transpose a spuriously sourced primitivism to the contrived medium of the Western recording studio.

      David Toop is a marvellous guide to the curious, the bizarre, the culted and the durable in 20th century music. His book includes interviews with the eclectic likes of Burt Bacharach, Ornette Coleman, Bill Laswell, Maroumi Hosno and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the renowned Pakistani popular singer.

      More than just a vibrantly maverick musician and musicologist David Toop writes with the exciting inventiveness of a fine prose stylist. This is a book to be ingested slowly and with careful attention paid to the originality of the author's metaphors. Exotica is a rich text in the best sense of contemporary writing. --JEREMY REED for amazon.com

    2. Rap Attack 3 - David Toop [Amazon.com]
      I find it incredible that this affluent and priviledged white male with a two hundred thousand dollar education could possibly know so much about hip-hop. Of course no one should take seriously his claim that this is in some way a 'risky' undertaking, especially from a well-paid academic. Still, Potter knows his stuff, is capable of taking in a great variety of the cultural discourse surrounding hip-hop and making sense of it (at least sometimes). I suppose this is just the kind of dull-as-driftwood analysis of a vibrant musical culture, but, as he points out, what else did you expect from an academic? I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to be conversant in everything hip-hop; just try not to sound like a rich white guy worshipping at the fount of Black creativitiy, won't you? -- A reader from California
    1. OHM: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music [Amazon US] [BOX SET]
      Track Listings Disc: 1 1. Tchaikovsky: Valse Sentimentale - Clara Rockmore 2. Oraision - Olivier Messiaen 3. Etude aux Chemins de Fer - Pierre Schaeffer 4. Williams Mix - John Cage 5. Klangstudie 6. Low Speed 7. Dripsody - Hugh Le Caine 8. Main Title from "Forbidden Planet" - Bebe Barron 9. Concertando Rubato: Elektronische Tanzsuite - Oskar Sala 10. Poème Électronique - Edgard Varèse 11. Sine Music (A Swarm of Butterflies Encountered over the Ocean) - Richard Maxfield 12. Apocalypse - Tod Dockstader 13. Kontakte - Karlheinz Stockhausen 14. Wireless Fantasy - Vladimir Ussachevsky 15. Philomel - Milton Babbitt 16. Spacecraft - M.E.V. Disc: 2 1. Cindy Electronium - Raymond Scott 2. Pendulum Music - Steve Reich 3. Bye Bye Butterfly - Pauline Oliveros 4. Projection Esemplastic for White Noise - Joji Yuasa 5. Silver Apples of the Moon, Pt. 1 - Morton Subnotnick 6. Rainforest Version 1 - David Tudor 7. Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band - Terry Riley 8. Boat-Woman-Song - Holger Czukay 9. Music Promenade - Luc Ferrari 10. Rosace 3 - François Bayle 11. Mutations - Jean-Claude Risset 12. Hibiki/Hana/Ma - Iannis Xenakis 13. Map of 49's Dream the Two Systems of Eleven Sets of Galactic Intervals - La Monte Young Disc: 3 1. Speech Songs: He Destroyed Her Image - Charles Dodge 2. Six Fantasies on a Poem by Thomas Campion: Her Song - Paul Lansky 3. Appalachian Grove I - Laurie Spiegel 4. En Phase/Hors Phase - Bernard Parmegiani 5. On the Other Ocean - David Behrman 6. Stria - John Chowning 7. Living Sound - Maryanne Amacher 8. Automatic Writing - Robert Ashley 9. Canti Illuminati - Alvin Curran 10. Music on a Long Thin Wire - Alvin Lucier 11. Melange - Klaus Schulze 12. Before and After Charm - Jon Hassell 13. Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills) - Brian Eno
    2. Tommy Boy - Greatest Beats Vol. 1 [1CD, Amazon US]
      Spin: The four CDs of Tommy Boy's Greatest Beats aren't sequenced chronologically, but they tell the undeniable story of a music's growing pains, and they brilliantly trigger the nostalgic impulse. At the time, the fact that this music came from a zip code beginning with 9 just added to its novelty, but in retrospect it was a harbinger of the day when hip-hop would grow large enough to challenge New York chauvinism. --Spin Magazine.
      Liner Notes by David Toop [...]

    David Toop presents: Haunted Weather (2004) - Various Artists

    David Toop presents: Haunted Weather (2004) - Various Artists [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Disc: 1
    1. Jukebox Capriccio - Christian Marclay 2. L.A.S.I.K. - Matmos 3. Resistance to Change, Pts. 2-3 - Terre Thaemlitz 4. Missing Voice [Excerpt] 5. Flight Path Trace - Peter Cusack 6. J'Adore la Bouche #1/Berlin 1936 - Yuko Nexus6 7. Three Active Serves - Sarah Peebles 8. Start Up + No Wave - Haco 9. Filament 2-5 - Sachiko M, , Otomo Yoshihide 10. Sferics - Alvin Lucier See all 17 tracks on this disc

    Disc: 2
    1. Parhelic Triangle - Autechre 2. Caecilia - Christian Fennesz 3. C7:: Continuum - Ryoji Ikeda 4. Reflecters - Derek Bailey, John Stevens 5. Analapos [#] - Akio Suzuki 6. Vatnajökull - Chris Watson 7. Maa - Pan Sonic 8. Swan Style - John Butcher 9. Clean Tone Falling - Kaffe Matthews 10. Bottle at Park - Toshiya Tsunoda

    Haunted Weather : Music, Silence, and Memory (2004) - David Toop [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    Is it possible to grow electronic sounds, as if they were plants in a garden? Why are childhood memories of sound and silence so important to our emotional development? Is it valid to classify audio recordings of wind or electrical hum as musical compositions? Why have the sounds of our environment become so important to sound artists and why is atmosphere so important in music? In Haunted Weather, David Toop asks these questions and gauges the impact of new technology on contemporary music's sound.

    David Toop is a highly regarded author, music critic and musician. Since 1995, he has released three solo albums, curated five compilation albums (including the soundtrack to Ocean of Sound). His books include Rap Attack 3, Ocean of Sound and Exotica.

    See also: David Toop - silence - music - 2004 - sound art - contemporary music

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