FLAT TIME/sounding> silencing> lightening> darkening
Anthony Kelly and David Stalling in collaboration with David Toop

Drum, light, mechanical devices, nature shavings, stable room
Hilltown New Music Festival, 2012

'A post-industrial machine/installation for the impression of time; an archive wiped clean; a surface, a vessel, the falling of shavings from nature.The first of two pieces about time, sound and the instrument.'

David Toop




David Toop
UNKNOWN DEVICES: the fragmenting of things

An anti-lecture for images, speakers, unknown devices and musical improvisation.

The second of two pieces about time, sound and the instrument,
performed by David Toop, with Anthony Kelly and David Stalling.
Saturday 21st July, Main Stage, Hilltown New Music Festival, 2012

Notes by David Toop (from Hilltown New Music Festival programme)

For the past 40 years I've gravitated toward dispersal, disembodiment and instability in music while at the same time searching for evidence of connection and cohesion. It's a contradiction that results in much stumbling towards different ways of working with people, with the tools of sound-making, with the forms and formlessness that music can take and the nature of listening. Where did it begin for me, buried in which memories?
Recently I have tried to articulate my ideas of musical instruments as instrumentality, which is to say events rather than objects, or conglomerates that connect people, environmental conditions and modes of research. Working with students at London College of Communication in my improvisation workshops led me to use the term 'unknown devices', since I could never be sure what any of them would bring as 'instruments', but also because the instrument was the sum of all these devices and the communality of usage rather than its isolated parts.

In my last book, Sinister Resonance, I considered the instrument in its most basic forms – a surface and a chamber. Over the years I've studied this through various lenses – ethnomusicology, bioacoustics, the writings of Joyce, Beckett and other modernists, through the history of painting from Piero della Francesca onward, not to mention my own performance pieces, conceptual inventions, lectures and anti- lectures. This particular anti-lecture takes as its starting point a quote from the surrealist journal Documents, published in 1929, perhaps the most inclusive view possible at that time but still relevant to my thinking today:

"No object of musical sound or sound production, however primitive, however formless it may seem, shall be excluded from classification . . . it is only on condition that nothing of a people's musical life be deemed unworthy of examination that we can consider a general study of instrument making and scoring throughout history and the five continents."

André Schaeffner, 'Musical Instruments in an Ethnographic Museum', Documents 5, 1929.


Anthony Kelly and David Stalling performing UNKNOWN DEVICES: the fragmenting of things with David Toop
at Hilltown New Music Festival, July 2012


photography by Doreen Kennedy