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Listening is intimacy Around Sound

David Toop

Edificio ABANCA Cervantes

Saturday 6th, Sunday 7th October | 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

75 € (40 € USC students)

20 seats (2 USC students)

“In a society organized round objective psychological measurement, the power to listen is a potentially iconoclastic one,” writes William Davies in The Happiness Industry. “There is something radical about privileging the sensory power of the ear in a political system designed around that of the eye.” In this workshop, the composer and writer David Toop will propose different strategies that, based on listening, allow us to approach sound within the context of artistic creation as a tool of resistance and change.

Listening to others, to the world, is a start but how to organise, be active, collaborate, from the point of listening? Is listening necessarily an act of hearing audio information or is it more productive to think of it as receptivity, attention, a channel through which to break down the rigid authoritarian formats through which events are structured?

Listening is also intimacy, a physical burrowing of sound into the body of the listener, an act of becoming closer, a physical entanglement. To listen closely to another’s silence is one of the most intimate acts possible. But in an age that refuses to listen, moving further into the digital domain where intimacy threatens to become lost and illusory, how can acts of listening intimacy resist this tendency?

“I’ve seen you ill with boredom,” wrote stream-of- consciousness pioneer Dorothy Richardson in Revolving Lights (1923). ‘You always think people’s minds are blank when they are silent. It’s just the other way around.” Richardson argued that everything in life, particularly relationships, was best judged by the quality of in-between silences. Silence inflates to contain even the smallest gesture; the supposedly passive and fixed ear moves outward, a gathering in; the projectile of sound is reversed, becoming receptive. All of these reversals are exercises in how to move across boundaries of practice, how to collaborate, to improvise, to perform without performing, to listen as a ritual without sound.

This workshop will be imparted in English.


  • David Toop

    David Toop has been developing a practice that crosses boundaries of sound, listening, music and materials since 1970. This practice encompasses improvised music performance, writing, electronic sound, field recording, exhibition curating, sound art installations and opera. As writer he has been associate editor and columnist of magazines such as The Wire and The Face and published seven acclaimed books, including Rap Attack, Into the Maelstrom -a Guardian music book of the 2016-, Ocean of Sound and Sinister Resonance, the latter two translated into spanish.

    He was a member of The Flying Lizards and has released thirteen solo Albums for labels such as Brian Eno’s Obscure, David Sylvian’s Samadhisound or Lawrence English’s ROOM40. His 1978 Amazonas recordings of Yanomami shamanism were released on Sub Rosa as Lost Shadows and sampled for Björk’s forthcoming album.

    He has also collaborated with many artists and musicians (Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, John Butcher, Max Eastley, John Zorn, Thurston Moore, etc.), curated art exhibitions, including Sonic Boom and Playing John Cage and currently, he is Professor of Audio Culture and Improvisation at London College of Communication.

    University of the Arts London