David Toop – Sound Body

David Toop – Sound Body

David Toop’s Sound Body hums and glows with life, five gorgeous morphing electronic tracks that continue Samadhi Sound’s exploration of quiet, minimal, melodic music worlds created by the likes of Harold Budd, Akira Rabelais, Fennesz, Derek Bailey, David Sylvian and others. These remarkable soundscapes have only become possible in the twenty-first century, when improvisation, digital composing and mixing, and traditional music forms from around the globe all mutate and fuse in ways that surprise and delight.

“Originally I wanted to make a record that was almost silent,” says composer, improviser and journalist Toop. “This came about because I had been listening to rooms and other spaces or environments in which dramatic and dynamic sounds were absent, and so became more and more sensitive to very subtle sound pressures, shifts of atmosphere, sounds of the self, faint external sounds, structural movement, our dog’s breathing, and so on. But because I was recording instrumentalists and then reshaping these recordings in the computer, the ‘space’ I was hearing was compromised continually by the editing process, so each piece grew in response to this, and then grew in response to the response. I kept stripping back as I added, trying to keep the character of each individual player, trying to build a ‘virtual’ ensemble, trying to stay close to my original intention of a ‘silent’ record, trying to make pieces in which intensity counterbalanced a certain stasis, in which sound pressures behave as a kind of quiet noise.”

Toop studied fine art and graphic design at Hornsey College of Art and Watford College of Art and Design in the late 1960s, then in 1971-2 took part in the first improvisation workshops led by jazz drummer John Stevens. Having played improvised music since the beginning of the 1970s, he has also recorded shamanistic ceremonies in Amazonas, appeared on Top Of The Pops with the Flying Lizards, worked with musicians including Brian Eno, John Zorn, Prince Far I, Jon Hassell, Derek Bailey, Talvin Singh, Evan Parker, Scanner, Ivor Cutler, Akio Suzuki and Jin Hi Kim, and collaborated with artists such as theatre director/actor Steven Berkoff, Japanese Butoh dancer Mitsutaka Ishii, sound poet Bob Cobbing, visual artist John Latham, and novelist Jeff Noon. In 1998 he composed the soundtrack for Acqua Matrix, the outdoor spectacular that closed every night of Lisbon Expo ’98. His first album, New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments, was released on Brian Eno’s Obscure label in 1975; since 1995 he has released seven solo albums, including Screen Ceremonies, Pink Noir, and Black Chamber. He has also written four groundbreaking books on music, currently translated into seven languages including Ocean of Sound, Exotica and Haunted Weather.

Produced during a period of research on the effect of digital technologies on improvised musical performance, Toop’s Sound Body is a disk in which the real and the virtual fold into each other creating hallucinatory but warm soundspaces. The virtual ensemble here includes a cast of fourteen playing everything from harp (Rhodri Davies), to violin (Angharad Davies) to rubber bands (Japanese sound artist Haco) to torn paper (Miya Masaoka) to stones (Gunter Müller) to water-immersed bottles (Lee Patterson). A variety of voices also enter the digital mix, including the late John Latham, Japanese writer Kenji Siratori and Missy the Dog. Toop himself plays a variety of guitars, wind instruments, a laptop and percussion, and edited and mixed each piece over a protracted period of time, slowly building up the rich and complex sound world that you hear.

What is a Sound Body? “In English, sound body means a healthy, strong body,” says Toop. “Implicit in the expression is an idea of the whole body. But actually I feel that the body is a collection of fragments. My idea of the sound body is the context in which music takes place. This can be a physical environment, a virtual environment, a setting such as a festival with its attendant scenes, a way of life, or a conceptual idea of what sound work is all about.”

So this Sound Body is a meeting place, where different kinds of sound, different kinds of musician, different ideas and experiences come together. We all live in this sound body as we move around, taking in our environments, whether out in the wild or media-saturated. Things that don’t go together, that happen in different times and places discover new ways of co-existing in Toop’s digital mix which renders them neither natural nor unnatural but always beautiful.

“I feel like a visual artist who has suddenly been given the opportunity to work with more concentration, more intensity, at a deeper level,” notes Toop. “There’s an ambiguous materiality about sound which connects strongly to the visual universe, yet has qualities that are quite distinct.”

Unfolding patterns; static color fields; chance meetings; silence; gorgeous abstraction and fierce materiality: you will discover these and more as you explore Sound Body.

Originally published as a press release for Samadhi Sound, 2007.

Speak Your Mind