Professor David Toop

Profile image of Professor of Audio Culture and Improvisation Member of CRISAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice)

Professor of Audio Culture and Improvisation Member of CRISAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice)

London College of Communication


David Toop is a composer/musician, author and curator based in London who has worked in many fields of sound art and music, including improvisation, sound installations, field recordings, pop music production, music for television, theatre and dance. He has recorded Yanomami shamanism in Amazonas, appeared on Top of the Pops, exhibited sound installations in Tokyo, Beijing and London’s National Gallery, and performed with artists ranging from John Zorn, Evan Parker, Bob Cobbing and Ivor Cutler to Akio Suzuki, Elaine Mitchener, Lore Lixenberg and Max Eastley.

He has published five books, including Ocean of Sound, Haunted Weather, and Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener, released eight solo albums, including Screen Ceremonies, Black Chamber and Sound Body, and as a critic has written for publications including The Wire, The Face, Leonardo Music Journal and Bookforum. Exhibitions he has curated include Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery, London, Playing John Cage at Arnolfini, Bristol, and Blow Up at Flat-Time House, London. Currently writing Into the Maelstrom: Improvisation, Music and the Dream of Freedom. His opera – Star-shaped Biscuit – was performed as an Aldeburgh Faster Than Sound project in September 2012.

Research interests

Sound, listening, improvisation, audio culture, sonic arts, music performance, audio technology, writing sound, experimental notation, environmental sound, composing for improvisers, sound in art.

Public Speaking themes

Sound arts and listening practice, sound collaboration with the visual, curation, sound formats.

Research statement

What I consider to be research is a questioning of research itself: in what sense can an identifiable practice of listening be formulated and how does that inform the act of reflecting on sound, whether through analytical writing, speaking, composing? This is also true of performance practice, particularly in improvised music: can the reflexivity of improvisation be understood within the framework of research?

My research focus is on sound, listening, writing sound, improvised music (practice, theory and history), sonic arts, strategies for composing for improvisers and a theory of ‘the instrument’ (the device or intangible ‘sculpture’ through which sound-making, listening and related events become manifest). This encompasses specific fields such as collaborative performance and listening to ‘silent’ media such as painting and literature but research as a site of discovery emerges from what is generated from the dialogue between all of these approaches, their varying intensities and forms of articulation.


Current students & thesis titles

Julie Groves, Physical Composition: Investigating the notion of the physical as a compositional tool by defining the term and its use through creative practice.

John Kannenberg, Listening to Museums: Curating the Ephemeral Sonic Object.

Kevin Logan, How to (Re)Do Things with Sounds: Mediating the Sonic-Deed.

Artur Matamoro Vidal, Exploring the notions of Silence and Sociality: New Contexts of Listening in Contemporary Music Improvisation.

Completed students & thesis titles

Rob Mullender, Silent Light, Luminous Noise - Photophonics, Machines and the Senses.

Selected research outputs