Two of the famous amplified performance interfaces created by the late Hugh Davies presented here for visual consideration alone. These object/instruments fuse function and a delight in the 'readymade'.
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. 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.