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David Toop

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David Toop
Background information
Born (1949-05-05) 5 May 1949 (age 75)
Enfield, England
Occupation(s)author, musician, curator
Instrument(s)guitar, flute, electronics
Years active1970–present

David Toop (born 5 May 1949)[1] is an English musician, author, curator, and emeritus professor. From 2013 to 2021 he was professor of audio culture and improvisation at the London College of Communication. He was a regular contributor to British music magazine The Wire and the British magazine The Face. He was a member of the Flying Lizards.

Early life and education[edit]

Soon after his birth, his parents moved to Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, where he grew up. He was educated at Broxbourne Grammar School, which he left in 1967 to study at Hornsey College of Art and Watford School of Art.



In 1974 Toop edited and co-published the book, New/Rediscovered Musical Instruments, featuring the work of Max Eastley, Hugh Davies, Evan Parker, Paul Lytton, Paul Burwell and himself. He was a founder member of the London Musicians Collective, Musics magazine and Collusion magazine, and in 1977 founded his record label, Quartz Publications. He published a book on hip hop, Rap Attack, in 1984.[2] Eleven years later, Ocean of Sound was published, described as Toop's "poetic survey of contemporary musical life from Debussy through Ambient, Techno, and drum 'n' bass."[3] Subsequent books include Exotica, a winner of the American Book Awards in 2000, Sinister Resonance (2010),[4] and Into the Maelstrom,[5] his survey of free improvisation shortlisted for the Penderyn Music Book prize in 2017.

He was a regular contributor to British music magazine The Wire and the British magazine The Face.


Since the early 1970s, Toop has also been a presence on the British experimental and improvised music scene, collaborating with Paul Burwell (playing guitar and flutes in their duo, Rain in the Face), Bob Cobbing with the group abAna, Hugh Davies, Max Eastley, Brian Eno, and others, more recently performing with Rie Nakajima, Thurston Moore, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sidsel Endresen, Camille Norment, Akio Suzuki and Elaine Mitchener. He was a member of the Flying Lizards. He is a member of the improvising, genre-hopping quartet Alterations, active from 1977 to 1986 and reforming in 2015.[6]

In 2000, Toop curated the sound art exhibition Sonic Boom, and the following year, he curated a 2-CD collection entitled Not Necessarily English Music: A Collection of Experimental Music from Great Britain, 1960–1977. More experimentally, Toop has also actively engaged with 'sounding objects' from a range of museums.[7] His opera Star-shaped Biscuit was performed as a Faster Than Sound Project at Aldeburgh in 2012.[8]


From 2013 to 2021 he was professor of audio culture and improvisation at the London College of Communication.[citation needed]


  • Rap Attack: African Jive to New York Hip Hop (1984) ISBN 0-89608-238-5 – republished with additional chapters as
  • Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds (1995) ISBN 1-85242-743-4
  • Exotica: Fabricated Soundscapes in a Real World (1999) ISBN 1-85242-595-4
  • Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound (2000) ISBN 1-85332-208-3 – exhibition catalogue
  • Haunted Weather: Music, Silence, and Memory (2004) ISBN 1-85242-812-0
  • Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener (2010) ISBN 1-4411-4972-4
  • Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom, Before 1970(2016) ISBN 978-1-6289-2769-6
  • Flutter Echo (2017) in Japanese ISBN 978-4866470115
  • Flutter Echo (2019) in English ISBN 978-1-78760-152-9
  • Inflamed Invisible: Collected Writings on Art and Sound 1976-2018 (2019) ISBN 9781912685165


Solo and collaborations[edit]

  • New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments (with Max Eastley) (1975)
  • Wounds (with Paul Burwell) (1979)
  • Whirled Music (with Max Eastley, Paul Burwell, Steve Beresford) (1980)
  • Buried Dreams (with Max Eastley) (1994)
  • Ancient Lights and the Blackcore (with Scorn, Seefeel, Timothy Leary/Dj Ched I Sabbah)
  • Screen Ceremonies (1995)
  • Pink Noir (1996)
  • Spirit World (1997)
  • Hot Pants Idol (1999)
  • Museum of Fruit (1999)
  • Needle in the Groove (with Jeff Noon) (2000)
  • Black Chamber (2003)
  • Breath-Taking (with Akio Suzuki) (2003)
  • 37th Floor at Sunset (2004)
  • Doll Creature (with Max Eastley) (2004)
  • Sound Body (2007)
  • Wunderkammern (with Rhodri Davies, Lee Patterson) (2010)
  • Lost Shadows: In Defence of the Soul – Yanomami Shamanism, Songs, Ritual, 1978 (2013)
  • The Myriad Creatures will be Transformed of their own accord (2015)
  • Entities Inertias Faint Beings (2016)
  • Dirty Songs Play Dirty Songs (2017)
  • Apparition Paintings (2020)
  • Field Recordings and Fox Spirits (2020)
  • On White, Indigo and Lamp Black (with Avsluta) (2020)
  • Until the Night Melts Away (with John Butcher and Sharon Gal) (2021)
  • Garden of Shadows And Light (with Ryuichi Sakamoto) (2021)
  • Breathing Spirit Forms (with Akio Suzuki and Lawrence English) (2021)

Curated albums[edit]

  • Ocean of Sound (1996) – (2-CD set intended to accompany his book)
  • Crooning on Venus (1996)
  • Sugar & Poison: Tru-Life Soul Ballads for Sentients, Cynics, Sex Machines & Sybarites (1996)
  • Booming on Pluto: Electro for Droids (1997)
  • Guitars on Mars (1997)
  • Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound (2000) – (2-CD set accompanying exhibition catalog)
  • Not Necessarily "English Music" (2001)
  • Haunted Weather : Music, Silence, and Memory (2004) – (2-CD set intended to accompany his book)


  1. ^ "David Toop | British Music Collection". Sound and Music. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  2. ^ Fikentscher, Kai (1994). "Review of Rap Attack 2: African Rap to Global Hip Hop; The Emergency of Black and the Emergence of Rap. A Special Issue of Black Sacred Music: A Journal of Theomusicology". Ethnomusicology. 38 (2): 349–351. doi:10.2307/851745. ISSN 0014-1836. JSTOR 851745.
  3. ^ Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, p. 355.
  4. ^ Dixon, Martin Parker (2013). "Review of Sinister Resonance". Popular Music. 32 (2): 315–318. doi:10.1017/S0261143013000135. ISSN 0261-1430. JSTOR 24736765. S2CID 162013482.
  5. ^ Studies, Journal of Sonic (24 March 2021). "JSS Book reviews". Journal of Sonic Studies.
  6. ^ Bell, Clive. "Clive Bell: What's so funny 'bout British improvising? – The Wire". The Wire Magazine – Adventures in Modern Music. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  7. ^ Toop, David (1 October 2012). "Sounding the Object: a Timebase Archive". Journal of Conservation and Museum Studies. 10 (1): 39–43. doi:10.5334/jcms.1011203.
  8. ^ Burnett, Joseph. "David Toop's Star-Shaped Biscuit". The Quietus. Retrieved 25 April 2021.

External links[edit]