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on 1 August 2017
This is a re-read so know the book already. Highly recommended.
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on 22 June 2017
Great and intriguing essay on an omnipresent phenomenon
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on 3 March 2016
I found this pretty frustrating. I don't mind books which are wide-ranging and unafraid to explore the fringes of their subject matter, but this was pretty much *all* fringe, with less than half of it conforming to my expectations of what a book about ambient music should be like. Maybe that's my fault (or the fault of the back cover blurb writer), but I can't really see the relevance of the extended chapter describing in tedious detail the author's journey into the Amazon rainforest. So he made a few recordings of insect sounds and local tribes chanting...and?
Similarly, he wanders off topic too often in order to discuss things which he himself finds interesting but which have only the most tenuous of relationships to the ostensible subject matter.
There are some good quotes from Brian Eno and Richard James, and interesting tidbits here and there about acoustics and musicological theory, but it's all too diffuse, woolly and rambling. It's also painfully 90s, with instantly dated references to "cyber-culture" and "virtuality".
Mainly it suffers from being a book about music. Ideally it would be accompanied by a compliation cd so that you could actually hear some of what he's writing about.
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on 1 September 2006
It seems as if every book title has to have a subtitle these days and Ocean of Sound is no exception: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds provides a useful clue to Toop's wide-ranging interests. The book discusses ambient music in passing, touching on Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, The Orb, Mixmaster Morris, Jon Hassell, Harold Budd, Scanner, Paul Schütze, Pauline Oliveros, Thomas Köner and others. It also explores more wide-ranging musical points of reference, such as John Cage, Claude Debussy, Luigi Russolo, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Terry Riley, Derek Bailey, R. Murray Schafer and John Oswald.

But it's also about virtual reality, shamanism, semi-mythical invented instruments, science fiction, post-modernism, environmental sound, the digital revolution, and more. One moment Toop will recount a dream, the next he'll be discussing post-modern philosophy, and then it's on to an autobiographical episode or an interview with a musician. Trivia, theory, anecdote: it's all here.

Ocean of Sound is a survey of the disintegration of all music and sound in the twentieth century, taking Debussy's encounters with gamelan music as a possible point of departure. For Toop, it has become increasingly difficult to tell music apart from background noise, and increasingly unnecessary to differentiate. Music has lost the plot: narrative and structure have been replaced by decentring and formlessness. Space has become more important to music than time.

I'll admit to having in the past found Toop's writing opaque: shoe-horned into a record review or magazine interview, speculation of the sort that fills Ocean of Sound often seems irrelevant. Here, however, everything coalesces, everything makes sense.

It's easily one of the best music books I've read in years, articulate and enlightening. This is true however much I disagree with Toop's generally positive attitude towards the musical trends he surveys.

At one point he writes: "Blankness - at best a stillness which suggests, rightly or wrongly, political passivity; at worst, a numbness which confirms it - may be one aspect of losing the anchor, circling around an empty centre or whatever the condition is. But openness, another symptom of the condition, may be more significant." I find his willingness to promote post-modern escapism and ignore the "political passivity" which these musical trends breed to be a little disagreeable, but it's a mark of Toop's ability to deal with such substantial issues that his ideas are so provocative. Recommended.
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on 6 June 2011
So many typos. Did no one read through before publication? Two examples: Bill Laswell referred to as Bill Laspell; Miles Davis as Mile David! What a shame. Toop is undoubtedly a unique and erudite writer, and his prose is dense enough without having to wade through such sloppy editing.
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on 1 August 2016
I love this book. I bought it many years ago when I was living in London, but somewhere along the line, loaned it out & never got it back.

I read it not just for the information, but for the ambience of the writing itself. I feel the writer captures much of what I love about "ambient" music, in words - no easy task.

For anyone looking for a place to start exploring this ever-morphing and expanding genre, I would highly recommend this book. It's one of the most interesting & enjoyable books about music that I have ever read.
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on 20 November 2015
This is a most interesting book that delivers so much music info and rich context that does not make the headlines.
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on 10 December 2012
Great read, nice and easy to understand, really helped me in my research for uni and a book you can always go back too, thanks.
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