Since Davies's instruments were built from whatever materials happened to be at hand (in some cases an instrument was nothing more than a single found object) it follows that their design and use in performance must proceed via an exploration of the musical possibilities of those given materials. Materiality—an emphasis on exploring physical characteristics and the musical possibilities that they afford—is thus central to understanding Davies's work as an instrument builder:

Davies's ideas for instruments usually arise out of the materials themselves...3.8

What he requires of anyone who plays his instruments is that he or she should become sensitive to what the instrument is capable of doing and what is natural to it...3.9

When he talks about his work it is noticeable that Davies constantly uses phrases like “the instrument tells me what to do”, “the materials show me how it should be”.3.10
In this sense the materials themselves—the instruments—could be regarded as prescriptions for, or abstract descriptions of, the potential compositions or performances that could be realised by playing them. Bell even goes so far as to suggest that

There is good reason for considering [Davies's instruments] as compositions in their own right, since in effect the construction of the instrument determined the way in which a performance was executed...3.11

The centrality of materiality provides an important point of contact between Davies's instruments and present-day live coding practice, in which a computer is programmed in real time to generate music in a live performance setting. According to Magnusson, a programming language can be considered `material' since it provides `an unequivocal representation of the machine state.' Code, by extension, `can thus serve both as a prescription and an abstract description of potential machine states' (emphasis added). In this way the programming language `lays out potential structures of algorithmic thinking', that is, it defines the ways in which musical development over time can take place. In live coding, as in Davies's instruments, material characteristics lay out the potential structures of musical thinking and define the ways in which the music can unfold over time.


... themselves...3.8
David Roberts, `Hugh Davies: Instrument Maker', Contact (17, Summer 1977), pp.8–13 (p.10).
... it...3.9
Roberts, `Hugh Davies: Instrument Maker', p.8. The instructions for Davies's `Shozyg' instrument represent one good example of this.
... be”.3.10
Roberts, `Hugh Davies: Instrument Maker', p.11.
... executed...3.11
Nicolas Bell, `Sounds Heard: The Music of Hugh Davies', in Media inter Media: Essays in Honor of Claus Culver, ed. by Stephanie A. Glaser (Amsterdam and New York: Rodapi, 2009), pp. 231–44 (p.241).
adrian 2015-06-03