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


The Hugh Davies Collection (HDC) at the Science Museum in London comprises 42 items of electronic sound apparatus owned by English experimental musician Hugh Davies (1943–2005), including self-built electro-acoustic musical instruments and modified sound production and manipulation hardware. An early proponent of ‘live electronic music’ (performed live on stage rather than constructed on magnetic tape in a studio), Davies’s DIY approach shaped the development of experimental and improvised musics from the late 1960s onwards. However, his practice has not been widely reported in the literature, hence little information is readily available about the material artefacts that constituted and enabled it.

This article provides the first account of the development of Davies’s practice in relation to the objects in the HDC: from the modified electronic sound apparatus used in his early live electronic compositions (among the first of their kind by a British composer); through the ‘instrumental turn’ represented by his first self-built instrument, Shozyg I (1968); to his mature practice, where self-built instruments like Springboard Mk. XI (1974) replaced electronic transformation as the primary means by which Davies explored new and novel sound-worlds. As well as advancing knowledge of Davies’s pioneering work in live electronics and instrument-building and enhancing understanding of the objects in the HDC, this article shows how object biographic and archival methodologies can be combined to provide insight into the ways in which objects (instruments, technologies) and practices shape each other over time.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/170705/001