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Exotica: Fabricated Soundscapes in a Real World: Fabricated Soundscapes in the Real World [Paperback]

David Toop
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

20 May 1999
Merging anecdote and biography, autobiography and interviews, fact and fiction and a characteristically eclectic selection of music, David Toop spirals us through the 20th century?s guilty fascination with exotica. Notions of the exotic have long inspired musicians across the musical spectrum, from classical to ?easy listening? to rap - from Stravinsky to the Boo-Yah T.R.I.B.E. Exotica takes a look at some of the world?s most witty, experimental and adventurous sound recordings while taking in the work of Les Baxter, the meaning of Carmen Miranda, leopard skin leotards, pink fluffy cubicles, elevator music, and more... Painstakingly researched and brilliantly insightful, Exotica includes interviews with Burt Bacharach, Ornette Coleman, Bill Laswell, YMO?s Haroumi Hosono, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and The Boo-Yah Tribe.

Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail (20 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852425954
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852425951
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 13.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 673,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Following his highly regarded exploration of ambient music, Ocean of Sound, David Toop has produced another exhilarating cultural investigation in Exotica, a guide to the diversity of Western musical responses to the foreign, the alien, the other. Moving from the easy-listening recordings of Les Baxter and Martin Denny, which overlaid exotic instrumentation onto familiar "semi-jazz or Latin beats", to the avant-garde music of Harry Partch and Sun Ra, Toop shows how the worlds of lowbrow and highbrow culture equally betrayed a complex fascination with the exotic, and often erotic, allure of non-Western music. But this is no straight history, for the book draws on literature, anthropology, cultural history, and travelogue to produce a shifting, suggestive network of connections and correspondences, imbricating musical appropriations and colonial attitudes. However, Toop also shows how permeable cultural boundaries can be: his account of the rapid spread of Hawaiian slide guitar techniques into Blues and Bollywood soundtracks (and taken up by artists in Japan, Burma and Zaire) humorously demonstrates that any simple notion of cultural "authenticity" is suspect, as does the fact that the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu was overwhelmed by hearing, as a young man in Paris, Josephine Baker's "chinoiserie" recording "Ma Tonkinoise".

The book is as stylistically diverse as its subject matter, moving from the raw and painful autobiography of the introduction, through the science-fiction casbah environments of the fictional opening chapters, and into the deftly collaged and juxtaposed accounts of the music (where else would one find chapters on Ornette Coleman, Burt Bacharach and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan next to each other?). With Exotica, Toop's intelligence, wit, and openness to diversity supplies us with an admirably erratic compass with which to navigate his redrawn, culturally porous topography. --Burhan Tufail

About the Author

David Toop is a highly regarded author, music critic and musician. Since 1995 he has released three solo albums, curated five compilation albums (including the soundtrack to Ocean of Sound), and the sound and music exhibition at the Hayward Gallery - 'Sonic Boom'. His music journalism appears in The Wire, Book Forum, The Times and The Face.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars very good and hard to find. 5 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Love the book and i will be looking for another items in future.The book is in great condition like new.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably the most intelligent music critic writing 18 Aug 1999
By JEREMY REED c/o - Published on
Exotica by David Toop
David Toop is arguably the most intelligent music critic writing today, his range of interests prospecting across an avant garde canvas coloured by the 20th century's foremost writers, thinkers and musicians.
Although Toop's subject is predominantly that of fabricated soundscapes in a real world, a music which has come to be categorised as exotica, his roots are literary and extend to novelistic cosmographers like Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad and William Burroughs. Toop is erudite, but refreshingly unacademic in the way his texts are interspersed with autobiography, anecdote, interviews and fiction. Bringing imaginative criticism to bear on a range of subjects from the beginnings of ethnic music to Josephine Baker and Yma Sumac, Les Baxter and Martin Denny, Toop succeeds in aligning the concept of the exotic with world music. In a century in which we have grown to be increasingly interiorised, television often providing our point of contact with the external world, so music has come to assume the role of transporting geography into our rooms. In this respect Les Baxter's floridly contrived soundscapes prove central to Toop's thesis, for Baxter was throughout the 1950's to offer his listeners package tours in sound. According to Toop Baxter's music provided 'running excursions for sedentary tourists who wanted to stroll around some taboo urges before lunch, view a pagan ceremony through gaps in the bamboo, go wild in the sun or conjure a demon, all without leaving home stereo comforts in the whitebread suburbs.' Baxter's albums carried titles such as Caribbean moonlight, Jewels of the Sea, Ritual of the Savage and Ports of Pleasure, and by hinting at sexual licentiousness in exotic landscapes, the music was to prove irresistible to a 1950's record buying public.
Toop is particularly good on inventive vocalists like Josephine Baker and Yma Sumac. When Baker arrived in Paris in 1925 as a dancer with La Revue Négre, she caused a sensation by exposing her breasts when she danced. Aspiring to chanson, she injected the medium with her atavistic African roots, so as to create an exotic vocal genre.
Yma Sumac noted for her collaboration with Les Baxter on Voice of the Xtabay, was an extraordinarily volatile singer of South American ancestry noted for her multi-octave range and freakishly histrionic tone. Sumac shared with Baxter and Denny the ability to transpose a spuriously sourced primitivism to the contrived medium of the Western recording studio.
David Toop is a marvellous guide to the curious, the bizarre, the culted and the durable in 20th century music. His book includes interviews with the eclectic likes of Burt Bacharach, Ornette Coleman, Bill Laswell, Maroumi Hosno and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the renowned Pakistani popular singer.
More than just a vibrantly maverick musician and musicologist David Toop writes with the exciting inventiveness of a fine prose stylist. This is a book to be ingested slowly and with careful attention paid to the originality of the author's metaphors. Exotica is a rich text in the best sense of contemporary writing.
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