David Toop

David Toop is a musician, writer, and Professor of Audio Culture and Improvisation at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. He is the author of Ocean of Sound, Sinister Resonance, Into the Maelstrom, and other books.

  • Two-Headed Doctor

    Listening For Ghosts in Dr. John's Gris-Gris

    David Toop

    A forensic investigation into a single LP: Dr. John, the night tripper's Gris-gris.

    Two-Headed Doctor is a forensic investigation into a single LP: Dr. John, the night tripper's Gris-gris. Though released in 1968 to poor sales and a minimum of critical attention, Gris-gris has accumulated legendary status over subsequent decades for its strangeness, hybridity, and innovative production. It formed the launch pad for Dr. John's image and lengthy career and the ghostly presence of its so-called voodoo atmosphere hovers over numerous cover versions, samples, and re-invocations. Despite the respect given to the record, its making is shrouded in mystery, misunderstandings, and false conclusions. The persona of Dr. John, loosely based on dubious literary accounts of a notorious voodooist and freed slave, a nineteenth-century New Orleans resident known as Doctor John, provided Malcolm "Mac" Rebennack with a lifelong mask through which to transform himself from session musician in order to construct a solo career.

    Somewhere between puzzle, experimental rhythm, blues disguised as rock, and elaborate hoax, Gris-gris was a collaborative project between Rebennack and producer/arranger Harold Battiste (at the time musical director for Sonny & Cher). A few brief sessions held at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles brought together many of New Orleans' finest musicians, including Shirley Goodman, John Boudreaux, Plas Johnson, Jessie Hill, Ernest McLean, and Tami Lynn. Along with their complex histories, the cast of characters implicated in the story includes Ornette Coleman, Lafcadio Hearn, Zora Neale Hurston, Cher, Sonny Bono, Sam Cooke, Ishmael Reed, Black Herman, Prince La La, and many others. The story details in discursive style the historical context of the music, how it came together, its literary sources, production and arrangements, and the nature of the recording studio as dream state, but also examines as a disturbing undercurrent the volatile issue of race in twentieth-century music, the way in which it doomed relationships and ambitious projects, exploited great talents, and distorted the cultural landscape.

    • Paperback $24.95
  • Inflamed Invisible

    Inflamed Invisible

    Collected Writings on Art and Sound, 1976–2018

    David Toop

    A rich collection of essays tracing the relationship between art and sound.

    In the 1970s David Toop became preoccupied with the possibility that music was no longer bounded by formalities of audience: the clapping, the booing, the short attention span, the demand for instant gratification. Considering sound and listening as foundational practices in themselves leads music into a thrilling new territory: stretched time, wilderness, video monitors, singing sculptures, weather, meditations, vibration and the interior resonance of objects, interspecies communications, instructional texts, silent actions, and performance art.

    Toop sought to document the originality and unfamiliarity of this work from his perspective as a practitioner and writer. The challenge was to do so without being drawn back into the domain of music while still acknowledging the vitality and hybridity of twentieth-century musics as they moved toward art galleries, museums, and site-specificity. Toop focused on practitioners, whose stories are as compelling as the theoretical and abstract implications of their works.

    Inflamed Invisible collects more than four decades of David Toop's essays, reviews, interviews, and experimental texts, drawing us into the company of artists and their concerns, not forgetting the quieter, unsung voices. The volume is an offering, an exploration of strata of sound that are the crossing points of sensory, intellectual, and philosophical preoccupations, layers through which objects, thoughts and air itself come alive as the inflamed invisible.

    • Hardcover $30.00
    • Paperback $24.95


  • In a Sound World

    In a Sound World

    Victor Segalen, R. W. M. Hunt, and Marie Roux

    Works by the polymathic French author Victor Segalen, including a previously untranslated essay, a novel, and a libretto.

    Victor Segalen (1878–1919) had one of France's most curious literary careers, applying his imagination to musicology, ethnography, exploration, medicine, synesthetics, Chinese history, and the occult. This collection gathers together his previously untranslated essay “Synesthestics and the Symbolist School” and his novel In A Sound World, a work of fantasy concerning an inventor lost in his own immersive harmonic space. Segalen's medical training (he had a career as a ship's doctor) inspired an interest in the link between the prevailing Symbolism of the time and synesthesia, the condition whereby one sense affects the perception of another.

    This edition also includes an essay by the musician and cultural historian David Toop that explores the historical context of Segalen's ideas. Also included is Segalen's libretto for Orpheus Rex, a collaboration with the composer Claude Debussy, which he would use as an opportunity for further explorations of his synesthetic concepts. This book makes available all three texts for the first time in English.

    • Paperback $15.95
  • Digital Magma

    Digital Magma

    Jean-Yves Leloup

    The emergence of electronic music with its new generation of artists and digital technologies has disturbed the world music landscape. From the musicians' angle, since the end of the eighties, techno, house, and their multiple subgenres, have brought in a new breath, sometimes sweeping aside the order established by rock and pop, and imposing new game rules: ephemeral and shared creations, widespread sampling, DJ rule, the practice of mix and remix, new and micro-economy. But that aesthetic revolution, which ended up contaminating most music during the nineties, is not only limited to artists. The democratization of the digital, of the means of diffusion, and of exchange and listening, transforms the relationship between the audience and music. Today the MP3 generation, beyond the simple question of piracy, invents new codes and practices which have shaken our way of “consuming” culture.

    Writer, DJ, and French sound artist, Jean-Yves Leloup has followed the evolution of electronic music from its first appearance in Europe at the end of the eighties. A fortunate witness to the electronic scene, he is also interested in all questions relative to contemporary art and digital technologies.

    • Paperback $19.95