Go back to article: The Hugh Davies Collection: live electronic music and self-built electro-acoustic musical instruments, 1967–1975

A solo career

Alongside his work with Gentle Fire, Davies continued to perform as a soloist, delivering regular one-man concerts and lecture-recitals using his self-built instruments, as well as exhibiting them in art galleries. By the time Gentle Fire gave its last concerts in the summer of 1975 (Davies, 2001, p 56), Davies was well established as a solo artist, instrument-builder, and performer. After Gentle Fire disbanded, he concentrated on solo work using his shozyg table – by this time rebranded as a ‘solo performance table’ (Toop, 1974, p 5) – as well as participating in regular group improvisations with like-minded musicians and instrument-builders, including Lily Greenham, Peter Cusack, John Russell, Roger Turner, Hans-Karsten Raecke, and others. He also remained active as a composer, and continued to exhibit his instruments regularly, both in solo shows, and alongside the work of other instrument-builders such as David Toop, Max Eastley, and Paul Burwell, whose group exhibition ‘New and Rediscovered Musical Instruments’ included all of Davies’s Springboards (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 1975).

By this time, Davies’s DIY approach to music-making had taken on a more explicitly political slant. His use of ‘junk’ materials was being described ‘as a corrective to the wastefulness of modern society’ and a way of ‘demonstrating that much of what is ordinarily thrown away as worthless may still have a useful life’, while his instrument-building workshops with children (an activity he had pursued sporadically since the late 1960s) aimed to ‘encourage awareness that the resources of the planet don’t need to be used and discarded so rapidly’ (Roberts, 1977, p 10). Thus, Davies’s DIY approach – originally born out of necessity – became in his later career an explicit statement against consumer culture, and a way of promoting environmental sustainability.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/170705/010