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20 June 2017

Richard Toop (1945-2017)

Richard Toop Image: Richard Toop  
© Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney

Richard Toop, the eminent Sydney musicologist, died on Monday 19 June 2017 at the age of 71. Born in 1945 in Chichester, England, Toop studied at Hull University in 1964-70, leaving the UK to work as Karlheinz Stockhausen's teaching assistant at the Cologne Musikhochschule in 1973-74. He moved permanently to Australia in 1975 and went on to forge a career as a musicologist with a particular interest in modernist composers and compositional processes. He was known for his work on Stockhausen, however his interests were wide-ranging and his rare intellectual curiosity, wit and and powers of communication, particularly talking and writing about contemporary composition, were much admired by colleagues and students. Australian audience at large also benefited from his lucid program notes, talks and radio programs.

Toop's publications include a book on Ligeti, a book of Stockhausen analyses, analytical articles and book chapters, and contributions to the Grove Dictionary of Music, including the entries on Ferneyhough and Stockhausen. He recently curated new and updated entries on Australian art music for Grove, including one on Jon Rose.

Richard Toop took a position as assistant lecturer at the New South Wales Conservatorium (later Sydney Conservatorium) upon his arrival in Australia in 1975, becoming senior lecturer in 1981 and, later, head of musicology and chair of the musicology unit. He taught many Australian composers, including Gerard Brophy, Michael Smetanin and Elena Kats-Chernin, for whom he wrote the libretto of a chamber opera, Iphis, 1997) He retired from the Sydney Conservatorium, University of Sydney in 2010, continuing as the Conservatorium's Honorary Reader in Musicology.

> Read Richard Toop's article about teaching composition, 'Street Cred: Non-composers teaching composition - a personal perspective', originally published in the AMC's Sounds Australian magazine (via NewMusicBox). Read also Toop's articles, on Resonate, about Jon Rose and Don Banks.

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Some words from Richard's Alfred Hook Lecture in 2010

"Finally: As you may infer by simply looking at me, I am now on the verge of retirement. So whoever is charged with presenting the historical state of new art music at the Conservatorium in years to come, it won’t be me. It’s not for me to dictate how my successors will interpret the present, or indeed the past. The only demand I would place on them (and it’s not a small one) is this: that the representation of the present in art music must be just as informed and up-to-date as it is in the sciences. Thanks to contemporary media, notably internet streaming, this is already entirely possible – not just as data but also, more importantly, as sound -  and will become ever more so. To retreat from this responsibility would be, in my view, both lazy and irresponsible. The present embraces us – let us also embrace it."