Room to move: David Toop

Greg Hooper

David Toop was one of the first experimental musicians I became aware of, as a wee tacker back in the 70s. He gave one and a bit talks at REV. Very personable, fireside-chat-like. The first talk was on his life in music (so far). It went Suburbs, Normal non-musical Mum and Dad, Radio, Comedy records, the Goons, Quatermass, all that BBC radiophonic stuff, Bo Diddley and homemade guitars. (I first heard of David Toop as the man who'd played the world's slowest guitar solo. Impressed me at the time seeing as this was 70s stadium big hair rock days ). In the 70s Toop became interested in the physicality of sound production and formed a long term friendship with Max Eastley, making and performing on large scale sound installations. Another consistent interest of Toop's has been constraint-based or scenario-based performance. Asking the question: What can I get out of this seed pod, a peg and a balloon floating away? An approach used now by people like Matmos.

Across both his talks, Toop returned to the relationship between technology and performance—particularly in the era of the laptop performer. Toop is not just wanting to spice things up (ie add a video wall), but asking what is the nature of human engagement with performance as perception and action, audience and performer (see also Paul Lansky). This is a critical issue with plenty of room for more exploration.

At the end of the second talk, shared with Scanner, a woman, the oldest person in the room, started talking during the audience participation bit. Oh no! Methinks: some irrelevant boring old granny reminiscences. Well, what a bigot I am. These few minutes of Joan Brassil talking about her work were a highlight of the festival, and not just for me. The audience, Mr Toop, and Scanner were more or less stunned as this elderly woman described the wonderful work she has made. Sophisticated, subtle, and humane. We keep hearing the world is full of amazing people, well one of them was there, sitting amongst us, a secret til she spoke. David Toop's response was “I must talk to you about the next exhibition I'm curating”. Yes he must.

Sound Body, David Toop, as part of REV, Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, April 5; Wave form versus liquid breath technique, David Toop & scanner, as part of REV, Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, April 7

RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 pg. web

© Greg Hooper; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2002