Hugh Davies (b. Exmouth, Devon, 1943, d. 2005) was a freelance composer, instrument inventor, performer and musicologist specialising in the new sound sources of the 20th century. He studied music at Oxford University, 1961-64 (BA), and was the assistant to the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne, 1964-66. As a Researcher at the Groupe de Recherches Musicales of the French Radio in 1966-67 he compiled a catalogue of electronic music compositions (see below). From 1967 to 1986 he was the founder-director, and 1986-91 the research consultant, of the Electronic Music Studio, Goldsmiths' College, University of London. In 1986-93 he was the external consultant for electronic musical instruments at the Gemeentemuseum, the Hague. He has been a co-founder of several British and international contemporary music organisations, including Secretary of the newly-founded International Confederation for Electroacoustic Music (1982-86). In 1999 he became a part-time Researcher in Sonic Art at the Centre for Electronic Arts, Middlesex University, London.
As a composer, apart from more or less traditionally notated music for conventional instruments, Davies was primarily concentrated on electronic music (live and on tape) and music theatre, since 1967 especially on works for his invented amplified instruments. Among his commissions were several works for modern dance groups. He invented some 130 concert instruments, sound installations and sound sculptures, and gave more than 180 solo concerts and lecture-recitals on his instruments, which have featured on over 50 published recordings. Thirty of his compositions have been recorded commercially (some in more than one version), and they have been performed and/or broadcast in 25 countries; his instruments, sound sculptures and other work have been exhibited in 13 countries. His CD of duo and trio improvisations Interplay was voted by the reviewers of The Wire as the third best CD of improvised music released in 1997. Two solo CDs have recently been released: Warming Up With the Iceman (2001), and a CD is included with his book of creative projects and documentation, Sounds Heard (2002).
Apart from solo performances, primarily on his own invented instruments, Hugh Davies also played in duos with Hans-Karsten Raecke and Max Eastley, and was a member of Strings With and Without Evan Parker and the Electroacoustic Cabaret; previous groups have included Music Improvisation Company, Gentle Fire, Naked Software, The Ferals and Voices from Somewhere. In the autumn of 2001 he appeared as a guest soloist with the London Improvisers Orchestra. Although he was not a multi-instrumentalist in any traditional sense, on a variety of commercial recordings he not only played a wide range of his own and other invented instruments as well as live electronics, but also clarinet (Stockhausen's Sternklang), Hammond organ (one track on the Music Improvisation Company's second album), toy piano (Gentle Fire album) and various non-Western wind instruments (Circadian Rhythm), as well as appearing as a singer (baritone, in Phil Minton and Veryan Weston's Songs from a Prison Diary). His many concert appearances included the BBC Promenade Concerts on two occasions, playing live electronics in Stockhausen's Mikrophonie II and sampling keyboard in the world premiere of Jonathan Harvey's Madonna of Winter and Spring.
Davies' most recent activities included a greater concentration on sound installations. Following Tintinnabularia Coloniensis, a specially-commissioned 'bell forest' for the underground ruins of the Roman Praetorium in Cologne (4500 visitors during its eight-hour opening), Soft Winds Do Blow was exhibited throughout May 2002 at the Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh (County Cork). Two earlier sound installations have been exhibited several times in the last few years, in Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain and Canada.
Hugh Davies' writings on music have been published in 17 countries and translated into 11 languages. Publications include International Electronic Music Catalog (compiler; 1968 - a revised version is planned for publication on the internet), 305 entries in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (1984), 82 entries in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd. edition, 2001), 4 entries in The Dictionary of Art (1996), contributions to six other dictionaries and chapters in 20 books and exhibition catalogues.
Shozyg I+II. OU 36-37 (10 LP incl. with journal), 1970. [CD reissue on Alga Marghen, in preparation (2002)]
Solo Improvisation No. 2 [= Shozyg Sequence No. 2]. Strings and Springs; Blank Tapes 8 (cassette), 1978.
Deux ressorts fort ambitieux qui ont envie d'?re po?es sonores [=Music for Two Springs]. Po?ie sonore internationale; Jean-Michel Place 10007 (cassette incl. with book by Henri Chopin), 1979.
Music for Bowed Diaphragms (excerpt) / [demonstrations of several instruments]. Electronic Music for Schools: Illustrations, Cambridge University Press [cassette incl. with book Electronic Music for Schools (Richard Orton, ed.)], 1981.
Music for Bowed Diaphragms / Salad / Shozyg Sequence No. 1 / Spring Song. Shozyg: Music for Invented Instruments (solo album); FMP SAJ-36 (LP), 1982.
Shozyg Sequence No. 2. Zeitkreis (1); Hans-Karsten Raecke (cassette; private edition), 1991 (also incl. duo/trio improvisations with Raecke/Ferdinand F?sch).
Group Composition IV (Glastonbury Fair) (excerpt) [as member of Gentle Fire]. Live Electronics, Contemporary Music Review 6/1 (cassette; incl. with journal), 1991.
My Spring Collection (excerpt). Visiting Hugh Davies. Other Sounds Vol. 1; Trekanten Video Formidling, Copenhagen, 1991 (non-commercial demo videocassette) = TVF Demotape #1: Other Sounds Vol. 1-11; Trekanten Video Formidling, Copenhagen, 1994 (non-commercial demo videocassette, incl. reissue of 1991 videocassette).
Jigamaree. Musicworks 57 (CD = cassette incl. with journal), 1993 = CD incl. with book Sounds Heard (2002).
Spring Song. Klangbilder: Hugh Davies/Hans-Karsten Raecke; Klangwerkstatt edition SM 500 135 D (CD = cassette), 1994 (also incl. duo improvisations with Raecke).
Spring Song (excerpt). Transparent Messenger / Pr?vitn Posel: Symposium Hermit - Plasy Monastery 1994; Hermit Foundation AV 0057-2 931 (CD incl. with catalogue/documentation), 1995.
Vision (excerpt) [electronic music]. Avant 4 (CD incl. with journal), 1997.
Madame Sin [electronic sounds for film]. Avid 01223510743 (videocassette), 1998? = Carlton 30074 20393, 2000.
Strata. Variations 2 - a London Compilation; Paradigm Discs PD 05 (CD), 1998.
Ring dem Bells [= Embellishments] (excerpt; duo performance on sound installation). Resonancias (CD incl. with exhibition catalogue, M?aga), 2000.
Music for a Single Spring (2 versions) / Porcupine / Shozyg I / Shozyg Sequence No. 3. Warming Up With the Iceman: Solos by Hugh Davies; Grob 324 (CD), 2001 (also incl. 2 solo improvisations).
Music for Three Springs (excerpt) and Group Composition VI (Unfixed Parities) (excerpt) [as member of Gentle Fire]. Not Necessarily English Music; Leonardo Music Journal 11 (2 CDs incl. with journal), 2001 = EMF MediaEM 136-2, 2001 [2 CDs issued separately].
Collective Responses / Composition with Cadence / Conference Instrument / Embellishments (2 versions) / Interlude / Lady Bracknell / Organic Rhythms / Printmusic / Six Portable Found Instruments / Squeakbox / Taken for a Ride! Sounds Heard: Environmental Projects and Documentation, Projects with Children, Simple Musical Instruments, Sound Installations, Verbal Scores and Historical Perspectives. Soundworld, Chelmsford, 2002 [CD incl. with book] (also incl. Jigamaree reissue; quintet improvisation)
The Music Improvisation Company. ECM 1005 (LP), 1970.
Music Improvisation Company 1968-71.Incus 17 (LP), 1976; = CD reissue on Incus CD12, 1992; = one track reissued on Ocean of Sound. Virgin AMBT 10 (CD), 1996.
Paul Burwell/Hugh Davies/David Toop. Davies/Burwell/Toop; Quartz/ Mirliton QMC 6 (cassette), 1976.
Paul Burwell/Hugh Davies/Evan Parker. Parker/Davies/Burwell; Quartz/ Mirliton QMC 11 (cassette), 1977.
Dick Beard/Hugh Davies/Tim Dennis: Trio with Hugh Davies. Pipe: Duos/ Collaborations; Pipe PP1 (cassette), 1980.
Hugh Davies/David Toop. Improvised Music & Sound Works; Audio Arts 4/2 (cassette), 1980.
Circadian Rhythm. Incus 33 (LP), 1980.
Borbetomagus: Work on What has been Spoiled. Agaric 1981 (LP), 1981.
Company: Trios by Company. Incus 51 (LP), 1986.
The Ferals: Ruff. Leo Records LR 138 (LP), 1987.
Peter Br?zmann/Hugh Davies/Phil Minton: Sweet Suite. Phil Minton: The Berlin Station; FMP SAJ-57 (LP), 1987.
Hugh Davies/Hans-Karsten Raecke: Klangbilder 1-4. Neue Musik und Free Jazz in Duo; Hans-Karsten Raecke (cassette; private edition), 1988.
Hugh Davies/Hans-Karsten Raecke: Klangbild 5 and Hugh Davies/ Ferdinand F?sch/Hans-Karsten Raecke: Drahtgestalten. Zeitkreis (1); Hans-Karsten Raecke (cassette; private edition), 1991 (also incl. own solo composition).
Hugh Davies/Hans-Karsten Raecke: Klangbilder 1-3, 5-8. Klangbilder: Hugh Davies/Hans-Karsten Raecke; Klangwerkstatt edition SM 500 135 D (CD = cassette), 1994 (also incl. own solo composition).
Hugh Davies: Interplay (duos with Max Eastley, Hilary Jeffery, Hans-Karsten Raecke, trios with John Russell/Roger Turner). FMR CD39-V0697 (CD), 1997; = 2 tracks reissued on Avant 1 [CD incl. with journal], 1997 / = 1 track reissued on Avant 13 [CD incl. with journal], 1999].
Hugh Davies/Max Eastley/Barry Leigh (excerpt; 1979 recording). London Musicians Collective... the first 25 years; Resonance RES 8.2 CD/RES 9.1 CD [2 CDs incl. with journal], 2000.
Peter Cusack/Hugh Davies/Rhodri Davies/Phil Durrant/John Edwards/ Kaffe Matthews /Marcio Mattos/Evan Parker/John Russell/Mark Wastell: Strings with Evan Parker; Emanem 4302 [3 CDs], 2001.
Hugh Davies/Max Eastley and Hugh Davies/Hans-Karsten Raecke. A New Guide to Sound Sculpture and Invented Instruments, Vol. 1; FMR CD80 (CD) [also incl. with journal Avant 19], 2001 [= tracks reissued from Interplay, 1997].
Hugh Davies: Lunar Day/Solar Night (solo improvisations). Warming Up With the Iceman: Solos by Hugh Davies; Grob 324 (CD), 2001 (also incl. 5 compositions).
Strings With and Without Evan Parker. Freedom of the City 2001 - Large Groups; Emanem 4206 (2 CDs), 2002 (also incl. London Improvisers Orchestra).
Johannes Bergmark/Adam Bohman/Hugh Davies/Martin Klapper/Mats Lindstr?: Eine kleine Eierschneidermusik (Eggslicer Quintet). Hugh Davies: Sounds Heard: Environmental Projects and Documentation, Projects with Children, Simple Musical Instruments, Sound Installations, Verbal Scores and Historical Perspectives. Soundworld, Chelmsford, 2002 [CD incl. with book] (also incl. own compositions).
AS PERFORMER IN WORKS BY OTHER COMPOSERS
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Mikrophonie I. CBS SBRG 72647 (LP), 1967 = DGG 2530 583 (LP), 1976; = CD reissue on Sony S2K 53346, 1993 = Stockhausen Gesamtausgabe 9, 1995.
Misha Mengelberg: Where Is the Police? Derek Bailey: Solo Guitar Volume 1; Incus 2 = 2B (LPs), 1971; = CD reissue on Incus CD 10, 1992.
Richard Orton: concert music 5. Approach to Music, vol. 3; Oxford University Press (17 cm EP; incl. with book), 1971.
John Furnival: Ode. John Furnival; Ceolfrith Press CPR 1 (17 cm EP; incl. with exhibition catalogue Ceolfrith Press 14), 1971.
Earle Brown: Four Systems/John Cage: Music for Amplified Toy Pianos/ Christian Wolff: Edges. Gentle Fire; Electrola 1C 065-02 469 (LP) = Toshiba EAC-80295 (LP), 1974.
David Toop: The Divination of the Bowhead Whale. New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments; Obscure 4 (LP), 1975 = Editions EG EGED 24 (LP); = CD reissue on Virgin CDOVD478, 1997.
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Sternklang. Polydor 2612031 (LP) = DGG 2707 123 (LP), 1976; = CD reissue on Stockhausen Gesamtausgabe 18A-B, 1992.
Talk Talk: Spirit of Eden. Parlophone CDP 74 6988 2 (LP) = TC-PCSD 105 (cassette) = CDP 74 6977 2 (CD), 1988 / = digital remaster: EMI Records 7243 8 57129 2 0 (CD), 1997 (= also in 3-CD set Talk Talk. EMI Records 7243 5 28343 2 7, 2000; other track reissues).
Phil Minton & Veryan Weston: Songs from a Prison Diary. Leo Records CD LR 196, 1993.
Hans-Karsten Raecke: Reden ist Silber, Schweigen ist Gold. Saitenwege Teil 2; Klangwerkstatt edition (cassette), 1994.
John Cage: MusiCircus (excerpt). Resonance RES 7.1 CD (CD; incl. with magazine Resonance 7/1), 1998.
Two versions exist, one for two performers without amplified objects (13 min.), and the other for six performers with amplified objects (20 min.).
Concert version: Vision (1987)
This composition was entirely created on the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument Series IIX in the studio of Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. It is an expanded concert version of the tape part of my ecologically-inspired dance theatre composition I Have a Dream (1985), which was mainly funded by a Composer Bursary from the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was premiered in November 1990 in Bratislava, one year after the Berlin Wall was first breached.
Complex sound sequences were produced by drawing elaborate individual loudness shapes for some or all of the first 32 natural overtones onto a screen by means of a light-pen. These were then played back as if each one was a basic timbre selected for the instrument’s polyphonic keyboard, which was tuned to various microtonal (14, 17, 19 and 20) and macrotonal (9, 10 and 11) equal subdivisions of the octave, and recorded in a sequencer (treated as a digital tape recorder). Finally, with one exception, each section was replayed at a different speed, faster or slower, although most of them could have been performed at the final speed in real time. The three macrotonal sections replace passages in my original theatre composition where the tape is silent and live sounds are produced by the dancer on specially-built sound sculptures.
The quadraphonic Concert Aeolian Harp was built in 1985-86, based on an earlier monophonic version of the instrument first invented by the composer in 1972 and expanded in 1980. The name refers to its timbral resemblance to that of the traditional instrument, but this concert version uses thin fretsaw blades instead of strings and is not played by the wind but blown on by the human breath, as well as played with a variety of miniature tools (based on the three other methods of playing instruments, bowing, plucking and striking). The sounds are produced by two rows of fretsaw blades (20 and 22 blades respectively) which are mounted in two arcs, one above the other, and amplified by four contact microphones, one at each end of each arc. The blades are of two thicknesses (designed for cutting wood and metal) and are nearly 13 cm in length, apart from two shorter lengths of blade (5.5 and 6 cm long) in the middle of the lower arc; each is mounted in its arc at a different “central” point, so that two different pitches can be produced on each blade.
The tape was created in the studio of Goldsmiths’ College, University of London; its three layers (“strata”, as in geology) were originally produced independently in 1981-82 (playing the studio in “real-time”) and only superimposed for this composition in 1987. The score was drawn using computer graphics.
This tape composition was originally composed as one of five “guides” for the exhibition Walkmen at the Diözesanmuseum in Cologne, April 2000. Thinking about the mediaeval religious wood and stone carvings in the museum’s collection, in a building in full view of the Cologne cathedral, I decided to make a work in which all the sounds were related to the processes that would have been undergone to transform trees and rocks into works of art, especially sawing, chiselling and scraping; to this I added sounds produced by treating the tools themselves as if they were musical instruments.
Sounds and composition: Hugh Davies
Recording engineer: Clive Graham
Studio equipment: Digidesign Sound Designer, Digidesign Session, Macintosh computer