Chair creaks, though no one sits there: decomposition and liquidity

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2008 Number 66

Chair creaks, though no one sits there: decomposition and liquidity
David Toop pages -


The title of this essay is also the title of one of Toop’s compositions, and it both reflects upon and enacts a compositional practice that Toop characterises as ‘destructive composition’, or ‘decomposition’. Confounding modernist dichotomies between control and ecstasy, intentionality and contingency, authoritarian composition and utopian free improvisation, Toop’s decompositional practice involves commissioning recorded sounds from a variety of musicians and ‘other sonic technicians’ unaware either of the decomposer’s plans or of one another’s contributions, and subjecting them to improvisational processes of ‘destructive composing’ with his digital audio software. A decentring, at once, of the composition, the performance and the relations of authority and ownership among the composer-performers who contribute to its assembling, Toop’s sound-art is often poised on the thresholds of audibility, treating the ‘decay’ of sounds - in the ear and mind - as a zone of creative potentiality and a metaphor for blurred boundaries between composer and listener, ownership and loss, presence and absence. Toop conceives of his method as a reflection on the uncomfortable business of exploitation, negotiation and sharing that participating in contemporary musical cyberculture inevitably entails.

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To cite this article
David Toop (2008) Chair creaks, though no one sits there: decomposition and liquidity, New Formations, 2008(66), -

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