The theme and focus of our 2016 programme emerged from discussions initiated by David Toop in the summer of 2015. We are therefore thrilled that our final Study Week of 2016 will be led by David and it builds on some of the themes that have emerged across in the year, in particular the act of listening.

The following artists have been selected to participate in the Study Week: Anna Barham, Ann Brodie, Alison Carlier, Daniel Clark, Fionn Duffy, Rachel Haines, Katie Hare and James Lowne.

Study Week Devised by David Toop

David Toop will lead a four-day study week called The little strange sound was the living voice of the brooding presence. 1

“In a society organised 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.” 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?

“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. Food and time will be important, along with foraging for sound, learning to work with materials and durations, inventing instruments that are not instruments, listening, reading/writing sessions and collaborative actions.  

1 Dorothy Richardson, Deadlock (from Pilgrimage) 1921.   

David Toop is a composer/musician, author and curator based in London who has worked in many fields of sound art and music, including improvisation, sound installations, field recordings, pop music production, music for television, theatre and dance. He has recorded Yanomami shamanism in Amazonas, appeared on Top of the Pops, exhibited sound installations in Tokyo, Beijing and London’s National Gallery, and performed with artists ranging from John Zorn, Evan Parker, Bob Cobbing and Ivor Cutler to Akio Suzuki, Elaine Mitchener, Lore Lixenberg and Max Eastley.

David has published five books, including Ocean of Sound, Haunted Weather,and Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener, released eight solo albums, including Screen Ceremonies, Black Chamber and Sound Body, and as a critic has written for publications including The Wire, The Face, Leonardo Music Journal and Bookforum. Exhibitions he has curated include Sonic Boom at the Hayward Gallery, London, Playing John Cage at Arnolfini, Bristol, and Blow Up at Flat-Time House, London. Currently writing Into the Maelstrom: Improvisation, Music and the Dream of Freedom. His opera – Star-shaped Biscuit – was performed as an Aldeburgh Faster Than Sound project in September 2012.

Please note that the participants for this Study Week have now been selected following an Open Call for applications. The selected artists are: Anna Barham, Ann Brodie, Alison Carlier, Daniel Clark, Fionn Duffy, Rachel Haines, Katie Hare and James Lowne.