Richard Toop (1945–2017)

The musicologist Richard Toop passed away in Sydney on 19 June 2017. Born in 1945 in Chichester, England, his desire to study contemporary music at the postgraduate level (then a radical proposition) soon gave way to complete immersion in the topic as Stockhausen’s teaching assistant at the Köln Musikhochschule, 1973–74. In 1975 he moved to Sydney to lecture at the New South Wales Conservatorium (now the Sydney Conservatorium), where he is remembered by generations of students as an inspiring and generous teacher. Abstract and impersonal questions about some giant of the 1970s were inevitably answered in the first person with pearls of detailed musical insight. Not that he limited himself to study of the twentieth century, his expertise reaching back to renaissance repertoire.

Once in Australia, his engagement with international movements in contemporary music hardly ceased and he is widely (though incorrectly, as he was the first to admit) credited with coining the term “New Complexity”. His books and articles, including a series of lectures from the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten from 2002, testify to a depth of culture that lifts music off the page and transposes it into a living sphere of ideas. He will be sorely missed.

In 2011 I invited Richard as the keynote speaker of the student colloquium “Music and Time” at the ANU School of Music (25 November). His talk, “Judging The Quick and the Dead (and analysing them too) was a wide-ranging reflection upon his career and I feel it is appropriate to share it at this time. I apologise for the poor quality of the video, though it does improve in the first couple of minutes. If anyone objects to me sharing this, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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