David Toop – Inflamed Invisible

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.

Spotify and QR Codes


This is a book about music, and we wanted to bring the print text to sonic life. We have compiled a series of web links to take you to recordings of the music, musicians, and artists David Toop describes, as well as to artists’ websites. We have placed codes in the margins, so you can listen to the music written about as you read. These codes can be scanned by a smartphone camera. On some phones, the built-in camera app will automatically recognise a code. On other phones, you would need to download a QR code reader app.

We have endeavored to find online as much of the music as possible, whether the pieces have been commercially released or not. Many of the links take you to the Discogs database. There, there are links to videos and audio on YouTube. Some links take you to the artist’s gallery website or personal site.

For the music that is commercially available, we have compiled an Inflamed Invisible playlist on the Spotify music streaming service. The playlist is accessible.

Individual tracks from this playlist are seen as Spotify codes in the margins. To scan these, please download and use the Spotify app on your phone. Select the magnifying glass icon to search, then select the camera icon and scan the code.

Atau Tanaka, Sonics Series Editor

Inflamed Invisible gives its readers singular insights into the dynamic field of sound as art. David Toop shares his profound knowledge that is based on decades of experience as an astute writer, innovative musician, and great friend of fellow artists. I savored every page of this extraordinary publication.

Barbara London, Yale School of Art 

David Toop is a consummate collector of sounds. In Inflamed Invisible he uncovers compositions in the most unlikely corners of the creative arts, hearing sound in the works from art world luminaries such as Francis Alÿs, Gilbert & George and Picasso, through to more expected stalwarts Christina Kubisch, Alivin Lucier and Akio Suzuki. This wide-ranging collection of essays explores new ways of thinking about music and its performance that has been part of Toop’s practice since the 1970s and has led him to become one of the most sought after essayists on sound.

Caleb Kelly, UNSW Art & Design

David Toop

David Toop (born 1949) has been developing a practice that crosses boundaries of sound, listening, music and materials since 1970. This encompasses improvised music performance, writing, electronic sound, field recording, exhibition curating, sound art installations and opera. It includes seven acclaimed books, including Rap Attack (1984), Ocean of Sound (1995), Sinister Resonance (2010), Into the Maelstrom (2016) and forthcoming - Flutter Echo, a memoir first published in Japan in 2017 (May 2019) and Inflamed Invisible: Writing On Art and Sound 1976-2018 (2020). Briefly a member of David Cunningham’s pop project The Flying Lizards in 1979, he has released thirteen solo albums, from New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments on Brian Eno’s Obscure label (1975) and Sound Body on David Sylvian’s Samadhisound label (2006) to Entities Inertias Faint Beings (2016). His 1978 Amazonas recordings of Yanomami shamanism and ritual were released on Sub Rosa as Lost Shadows (2016). In recent years his collaborations include Rie Nakajima, Akio Suzuki, Tania Chen, John Butcher, Ken Ikeda, Elaine Mitchener, Henry Grimes, Sharon Gal, Camille Norment, Sidsel Endresen, Alasdair Roberts, Thurston Moore, Ryuichi Sakamoto and a revived Alterations, the iconoclastic improvising quartet with Steve Beresford, Peter Cusack and Terry Day first formed in 1977. Curator of sound art exhibitions including Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery (2000), his opera – Star-shaped Biscuit – was performed as an Aldeburgh Faster Than Sound project in 2012. He is currently Professor of Audio Culture and Improvisation at London College of Communication.

http://davidtoopblog.com/