Between 1967 and 2001 Davies built more than 120 electroacoustic musical instruments that `incorporate[d] found objects and cast-off materials'3.4 such as kitchen utensils, plastic bottles, the lids of jam jars, envelopes, matchboxes, rubber bands, and many other items that might normally be considered `junk.' This practice arose out of his desire to pursue interests in live electronics and tape music composition following two years working as personal assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen (1964–66). Conceived of as `musique concrète synthesizers', Davies's instruments were, on the one hand, designed to generate new and interesting sounds for use as material in tape compositions.3.5 On the other hand, Davies was inspired by his participation in performances of Stockhausen's live electronic works, such as Mikrophonie I, and found that his instruments could equally well be played live. Lacking equipment and funds, Davies built his instruments using essentially whatever materials came to hand. Among the first of his constructions was a device called the `Shozyg,' built in 1968, which comprised a selection of electronically amplified springs, hacksaw blades and ball-bearings housed inside the cover of an encyclopaedia with the pages removed. (This volume covered alphabetic topics in the range SHO–ZYG, hence the instrument's name; the book itself—so the story goes—was literally found lying in the street.)

Born out of necessity, recycling went on to become a central component of Davies's ethos. There developed a clear connection between the musical recycling/repurposing of throw-away materials, and an interest in wildlife and the natural environment,3.6 and Davies came to favour modes of production were environmentally sensitive, modest and frugal, ecologically sustainable. Through his practice as an instrument-builder he aimed to show that `the riches of our planet do not need to be consumed and thrown away so quickly.'3.7


... materials'3.4
David Roberts, `Davies, Hugh (Seymour) (ii)', in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: Macmillan, 2001), pp.61–2 (p.61).
... compositions.3.5
Hugh Davies, `Invented Instruments and Improvisation', Avant: Jazz, Improvised and Contemporary Classical Music, Spring 1997, pp.12–15 (pp.12–14).
... environment,3.6
Hugh Davies, `My Environmental Music', in Sounds Heard (Chelmsford: Soundworld, 2002), p.48.
... quickly.'3.7
Hugh Davies, `The Aims of My Musical Projects for Children', in Sounds Heard (Chelmsford: Soundworld, 2002), p.96.
adrian 2015-06-03