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.