david toop

37th Floor at Sunset

CD jewel case


First monography published by Sub Rosa in 1990.

The invitation to create music for the CD-ROM installation - Mondophrenetic - came from the Belgian team of producer Rony Vissers, artist/photographer Els Opsomer and writer/theorist Herman Asselberghs. Loosely inspired by Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film, Deux ou Trois Choses que je sais d'elle, the installation takes Els Opsomer's photographs of high rise apartment blocks, shot in many different countries, as the focal point of explorations of globalism at the end of the 20th century, the beginning of the 21st century. Creating a soundtrack for Mondophrenentic raised a number of new challenges for me. The first of these was focussed on the issue of non-linearity. Music composed for a multi-media setting such as Mondophrenetic relinquishes control. Questions as to when it is used or in what context are decisions governed in the first instance by the programmer and designers, then ultimately by the user, whoever he or she may be. Different pieces of music may appear in unforeseen juxtapositions, be disrupted, or may be heard in unpredictable visual and textual contexts as the user navigates. Such outcomes have to be accepted and, to some extent, anticipated by the composer and built into the nature of the music. The second challenge was to create a kind of soundtrack that was not so far forward to demand attention as music in its own right, yet not so far in the background to be peripheral sound design. I wanted to create atmospheres suggestive of buildings as living organisms, creatures with nervous systems, without reducing the soundtrack to a catalogue of sound effects. In his novel, Highrise, J.G. Ballard described the subtle relationship of an apartment block's nervous system to the disintegrating ecology of the mini-society of its inhabitants. Apartment blocks look much the same, whether in China or the suburbs of Paris, yet the lives within them are very different. The sounds of lift shafts, ventilation and heating systems, the murmurs of human activity, radio and television, have a universality that becomes specific only in the finest details, a moment in time at the right place, maybe through the walls of the 37th floor at sunset. I also wanted to create music that suggested globalism and the absorption of global cultures into an environment of signs, a kind of easy listening or aetherial mix that is detached from any recognisable source other than the perpetual movement of hybridised culture in the 21st century. Information is a kind of architecture, though like music, its walls are intangible.
David Toop
June 2000

David Toop is a musician, composer, writer and sound curator. He has published three books: Rap Attack (now in its third edition), Ocean of Sound, and Exotica (selected as a winner of the 21st annual American Books Awards for 2000). He has also released five solo albums since 1995 - Screen Ceremonies, Pink Noir, Spirit World, Museum of Fruit and Hot Pants Idol - and curated five CD compilations for Virgin Records - Ocean of Sound, Crooning On Venus, Sugar & Poison, Booming On Pluto and Guitars On Mars.
In 1998 he composed the soundtrack for Acqua Matrix, the outdoor spectacular that closed every night of Lisbon Expo '98 from May until September. He has recorded shamanistic ceremonies in Amazonas and worked with musicians including Brian Eno, John Zorn, Prince Far I, Jon Hassell, Derek Bailey, Talvin Singh, Evan Parker, Max Eastley, Scanner, Ivor Cutler and Witchman. As a critic he has written for many publications, including The Wire, The Face, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer, Arena, Vogue, Spin, GQ, Bookforum, Pulse, Urb and The Village Voice. He has curated Sonic Boom, an exhibition of sound art showing at the Hayward Gallery, London, from April to June, 2000. Other projects currently in progress include the composition of
a soundtrack for Mondophrenentic, a CD-ROM installation created in Belgium, and 'Needle In the Groove', a collaborative album with novelist
Jeff Noon, released on Scanner's Sulphur label in May 2000. In January 2000 he exhibited the sound installation 'Dreaming of Inscription On Skin' with Max Eastley at ICC in Tokyo. He is currently a visiting Research Fellow at the London Media School.


01 21st Floor Discotheque At 4 A.M. 1:44
02 Dream Cargoes 8:21
03 Nocturnal Service Shaft 8:55
04 Empty Mall 1:00
05 Automatic Security Procedures 2:40
06 Disposal Chute Inoperative 7:48
07 37th Floor At Sunset 5:11
08 Brand New 2:22
09 Virtual Pet #1 0:28
10 Air-Con Function 5:47
11 Ventilation Shaft 1:16
12 Watchtower Data 7:49
13 Connection Not Enabled 0:59