It would be easy to believe that David Toop, academic, author and one-time pop star, would be annoyed by the headline.
The man is an academic, a thinker, a leader in musical thought. He is a power of influence behind the genres in which he works; a man who has influenced musicians, students and artists across the globe. He has collaborated with some of the big names and yet seems to have managed to keep his essential humanity and has his feet firmly on the ground
Head in the clouds
Toop’s music is something completely different. His work is experimental. It is important to remember he is chair of the chair of audio culture and improvisation at the London College of Communication.
Improvisation we can readily understand, but for the layperson trying to work out what audio culture means leaves us scratching our heads. But we can understand it must have music in it and then what?
Whatever it is – and perhaps they define it rather by what it isn’t – certainly Toop’s music ranges from the frankly hard to listen to, all the way to soothingly beautiful. His ear for music takes him places where his feet never have.
Understanding of instruments
One of the most amazing things about Toop is his musical competency. There does not seem to be an instrument that he cannot adapt to the music he chooses to make. He is as adept at a didgeridoo as he is with a cello. His capability in the mixing studio means he is aware of how to bend technology to his audio will too.
Master of media
Toop continues to experiment. If you search for him on YouTube you will get to see lots of work where many media types are involved. For example, the voice as only a musical instrument and not something from which to garner meaning. Another is a video backdrop providing images which make sense, but then don’t, as the connection between voice, backdrop and Toop’s audio lines mix, meet and harmonize and then drop away again.
A man of the people
Toop himself commented in a video recorded conversation that he allows himself to almost shape-shift according to the musician with whom he works. Trying to tie down the man and what his musical style remains difficult, as his response would be something to the effect of ‘what do you want it to be’, or even ‘you work it out’.
Savvy and worldly
For all his sound reflect the natural world there is the edge of realism in the man. He understands the way the world works and how especially the music industry works. As music becomes easy to get in a way it wasn’t ever before. Musicians make less than they might have done before. Downloads, the ubiquitous YouTube makes it easy for anyone to take the intellectual work of others. Toop appears to understand the needs of the artist in this dog-eat-dog world, and he was a pop-star.