Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre
‘For Hugh Davies’
The For Hugh Davies project was a unique way of paying homage to and celebrating the remarkable music of Hugh Davies. The resulting CD was recorded almost three years to the day after his death in January 2005, and was released in July 2008. Hugh Davies was one of that outstanding first generation of European improvisers who emerged in the mid-1960's. He played in the Music Improvisation Company (along with Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and Jamie Muir), and was a founder-member of the legendary ensemble Gentle Fire, a group who – years ahead of their time – used live electronics and improvisational elements to interpret radical scores by composers such as John Cage and Christian Wolff.
From 1964-66 Hugh worked as an assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen, during the latter’s most radical and fruitful period as a composer. Hugh assisted on the production of Mikrophonie I, a stunning work based on the amplification of sounds produced on a large tam-tam as it is brushed, struck or stroked by a variety of different objects and materials. In a sense Hugh's music over the next 40 years was a deepening exploration of the soundworld opened up by Mikrophonie I, again usually using metal objects as a sound source, though far smaller ones than Stockhausen's giant tam-tam. Employing what he described as a “do-it-yourself approach to music”, Hugh built instruments from everyday objects such as springs, egg-slicers and fretsaw blades. These were rubbed, scratched, beaten or blown, and the resulting small sounds were amplified. Although thought of as a pioneer of the use of live electronics in improvisation, the only 'electronics' involved in the vast majority of his instruments was amplification.
Hugh continued to refine and develop this soundworld both in his compositions for tape (collected on the CD Tapestries on the Ants label) and in his improvisations with a wide range of fellow musicians. He particularly liked playing with other instrument builders (Max Eastley, Hans-Karsten Raecke), but also had long and fruitful collaborations with a number of instrumental improvisers with whom he felt an affinity (John Russell, Roger Turner, David Toop, Phil Minton, Evan Parker).
For Hugh Davies uses a number of previously unpublished solo improvisations by Hugh dating from the 1970's. At the recording session these improvisations were played back to three musicians who have been deeply influenced by his work: Mark Wastell, Adam Bohman and Lee Patterson. The musicians improvised alongside Hugh's recordings, producing an unusual improvisational situation in which one of the voices was fixed and unable to respond to the playing of the others. The musicians had been given copies of Hugh's pieces three months in advance of the session, but in fact none of them chose to listen to them more than three times, as they wanted to leave plenty of room for spontaneity.
In the recording Mark Wastell plays cello – the instrument with which he emerged as an improviser in the 1990's, but which he has since largely abandoned. He chose to play it here because it was the instrument he'd used on the dozen occasions that he performed with Hugh. Adam Bohman and Lee Patterson worked from tables full of amplified objects similar to those that Hugh employed in his self-built instruments. Both acknowledge Hugh as a major influence, though Adam only played with him on a handful of occasions. Lee never played with Hugh, and the one time they 'met' at a conference, Lee was too awestruck to actually speak to him.
Ten pieces were recorded of which six have been selected, including two very different responses to Hugh’s ‘Music for Bowed Diaphragms’. On the final track the musicians improvise unaccompanied by Hugh's recordings as a joint homage to his memory.
For Hugh Davies: disc details
Hugh Davies (invented instruments) + Adam Bohman (amplified objects)
Lee Patterson (amplified objects)
Mark Wastell (cello)
1. 2 springs + 3 7:56
2. 3 springs + 3 14:38
3. invented instruments + 2 (HD + AB & LP) 10:53
4. bowed diaphragms + 1 (HD + MW) 6:52
5. bowed diaphragms + 3 8:15
6. for hugh davies (AB/LP/MW) 12:48
total time: 62:37
The original recordings of Hugh's music around which the improvisers played are being issued simultaneously on CDR:
Hugh Davies: Performances 1969-77
1. Music for 2 springs (1977) 7:52
2. Music for 3 springs (1977) 13:04
3. Solo at Ronnie Scott’s (1975?) 24:20
4. Music for bowed diaphragms (1973) 10:05
5. Salad (1977) 13:54
6. Shozyg I & II (1969) 8:52
Tracks 1 to 5 are solos, track 6 is a duo for two shozygs played by Hugh Davies & Richard Orton, a fellow
pioneer and one-time member of Gentle Fire.
Other CD’s featuring the music of Hugh Davies:
Interplay (fmr) trios with John Russell & Roger Turner, and duos with Max Eastley, Hans-Karsten Raecke & Hilary Jeffrey, recorded 1996/7
The Iceman Cometh (grob) solos from 2000
Tapestries (ants) collected pieces for electronic tape
Sounds Heard (fmr) book of texts by Hugh Davies with cd giving numerous extracts & samples of his instruments, published 2001
Music Improvisation Company (incus) cd of performances from 1968 to 1971 with Evan Parker, Derek Bailey & Jamie Muir
Klangbilder (klangwerkstatt) duos on self-built instruments with Hans-Karsten Raecke, 1985-94