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on September 13, 2001
Incredible in many ways, Toop's book attempts to trace a quiet revolution in twentieth century music. One cannot deny the impressive breadth of his knowledge, from Stockhausen to Miles all the way to Future Sound of London and their ilk. His writing is quite often beautiful, if occasionally one feels like he is writing too many words to actually say anything.
Ultimately, however, I leave the book feeling a bit underwhelmed. Ironically, it is the book's very eclecticism that works against it. I personally did not see the connectionsbetween, say, the music of Kraftwerk and Toop's (admittedly fascinating) discussion of the sound of the Amazon jungle. These disgressions ultimately make the book useless as a survey. Of course, I doubt that it was meant to be so, but Toop fails to make the kinds of connections that have given books by Greil Marcus and others a fascinating unity.
Perhaps, though, this is the point. Much like the ambient music that serves as the centerpoint of the book, this book simply floats by, not asking you to make any conclusions. It is probably best read in bits, before bed or in the bathroom, where the individual moments of brilliance can be better appreciated. Very ambient, indeed.
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on June 1, 2000
David Toop is both a musician and writer, having done ambient music, dub music with the likes of Prince Far I, and of course numerous written articles on ambient and experimental aspects of popular music. I'd have to say that this book is perhaps one of the definitive studies on this musical genre, covering the aesthetics, listening practica, concepts, influences, directions, and so on of this growing musical field in a very inclusive and insightful style. This is perhaps one of the best written companions to everything ambient, as well as influences on ambient music from as far afield as Sun Ra and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Anyone interested in knowing more...either in scope, or deeper within...on ambient should obtain a copy of this book.
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As an eager but somewhat overwhelmed newcomer to the world of ambient music, I've found this overview to be informative & invaluable. It's constructed like many ambient pieces: layers of information & exotica that overlap, shade into one another, and in many ways recreate in prose the experience of the music. Yet at the same time, there's a clarity & focus to the writing, which becomes apparent as the reader flows from one topic to the next. By the end, I'd not only gained some real knowledge & understanding, I'd been given some excellent starting points for further exploration. An exemplary volume, highly recommended!
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on July 28, 2011
I love David Toop and any work he's involved in. From music to academic writing, this guy knows his stuff. He's very well versed in music and has done his research thoroughly you can tell.. He has a unique way of explaining sound and its magic, definitely grab any books he's written on the subject of sound.
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on February 20, 2006
I love to read about music, but there are so few good music writers it seems. This book approaches the development of incidental, ambient, experimental, avant garde, and world musics in a way that mimics the music itself - with random bursts of observations, anecdotes, interviews, and just plain bizarre missives. I encourage anyone with a sense of adventure and an open mind to grab a copy.

There is a similarly-titled double CD which came out to accompany the book, but I can't see it on Amazon. It is as eclectic as the book and features a lot of the artists interviewed and mentioned - Sun Ra, Aphex Twin, and others. I have played the CD to death and would recommend it. You gotta respect a compilation that puts The Beach Boys right next to African Headcharge, or My Bloody Valentine next to Brian Eno - and makes it work so well.

The book also features a list of albums and artists in the appendix, which I found useful as a way of doing further research.

Another book in a similar vein is Kodwo Eshun's "More Brilliant Than The Sun", though it focuses solely on the innovators in electronic music.
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on July 5, 2005
If you like ambient, or....atmospheric music of any sort you should give this book a chance as it a nice erudite survey of the various genres and musicians that are linked to..or been influenced by ambient music. It is not a linear survey thru time, but rather this book reminds me of a map which Toop rolls around visiting here and there with a few jumps now and then as he discusses how in the last 100 years "music has reflected the world back to itself and to its listeners". The writing is enjoyable, and full of poetry, such that I kept finding myself underlining odd bits and pieces every few pages and I wound up compiling them for myself for future reference. There is also a nice bibliography and discography at the end of the book.
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on August 15, 1999
Written by a practitioner, this book on ambient music, and the place of sound itself in the history of music, should be read by anyone who has an interest in the nature of human's relationship with sound, as well as by people interested in the history of ambient music. I loved it, and have recommended it repeatedly.
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on October 20, 2014
Nice overview of music that falls thru the
cracks-great chapter on the Ambient scene in
England in the nineties.
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on January 7, 2000
This is an amazing document on the sonic explorations of the last 100 years, from improv classical to backwords dub lines to the tweak tweak nob movements of our techno, this book is brought with a fun if not intoxicating writing style. the ending of this book is getting even better with jungle sounds (the nature not the genre)
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on September 22, 2010
Hi all,

I find the author's work interesting but at the same time unbalanced.

What brings me to write this article is his strident, absurd critique of Steve Roach's and David Parson's music.

Of course, the "techniques" used in production of works are important, nevertheless many of the artists considered innovators leave their public off the track down the road.

The opposite is true for Steve Roach and all the genre artists associated with the various labels producing the KIND of music they're doing.

Having been a young prodige, and fan of classical music, only to wake to pop & rock in the 60's as an adolescent, I quickly discovered the new age jazz of OREGON while on Vanguard records. I had been a Tangerine Dream, King Crimson fan as a kid, but needed more sonic "structure". As an adolescent, I quickly fell in love with what the WHO was doing on QUADROPHRENIA, as well as the YES song albums like TALES and what followed.

The arguments amongst many musicians were based on doing what will sell vs doing what is wanted, desired by a cult public of true-blue believers.

Well,I think that the tribal ambient niche has been well served by the sonic soundscapes, evocative of myth and ancient themes that have all but gone out of the public mind.

David Parson's is a notable exception having done much to promote the local music in its full ethnicity, while doing interpretations from his travels which merge the sounds with his perceptions of them.

This has a distinctive style - independent of the "track overlaying" strategies used and the search for unique electronic sound substitutes for natural sounds.

I feel that their music is representative of a niche segment of the public that HAS HAD intense "shamanic" or life experiences and has a natural nostaligia for sounds and thematics which FIT OUR evolving mindspaces.

In terms of professionalism, their works are increasing "slick". The market and afficionado ears of many require those technical moves. Moreover, the overall move to digitalizing sound to enhance the electronic dimensions is universal.

However, what the author's book DOES NOT EVEN MENTION much less try to explore, are the musicological uses of sound to open & explore the "unconscious" of the listeners - whether you see "mind" as a physical phenomena (sitting in your brain, you watch TV ) or you see "mind" as a distributed co-operating socio-cultural process, even some Jungian "etherical soup" -- their music appeals to this SOMETHING that is BOTH in our genetic code, our cultural GREATER MIND (see MIT on the subject of "extended mind") as well as our tap into the "local mental spaces" being sold in the downtown music store.

There are universals. They are ACCESSED through sound & music. This is a very esoteric subject because NO ONE has yet devised a suitable musical theory allowing for a bridge between spoken,written linguistical reality and their "class equivalences" in sound.

Soundscapes are that bridge. They open up a space to the imagination that bridges history, present, future.

The author knows this but does not say it - instead playing the role of musical critic.
That role is better played in newspaper sunday pages rather than in a book.

Sorry, nice try but no cigar on this one !

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