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Hugh Davies: 1943-2005
Hugh Davies

Born: April 23, 1943 in Exmouth, Devon, U.K.
Died: January 1, 2005 in London, U.K.

Free improviser and instrument inventor

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2005 Todd S. Jenkins

Hugh Seymour Davies, one of Britain's most brilliant and resourceful free improvisers, died on New Year's Day, 2005, at the age of 61. He had been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer two months prior, and passed away at North London Hospice.

Davies graduated from Oxford's music program in 1964, about the time that a serious interest in the avant-garde began to take hold in England. He worked with Karlheinz Stockhausen for two years and took part in the recording of "Mikrophonie I" in 1965. Davies then engaged in electronic music research at French Radio's Groupe de Recherches Musicales. In 1967 he began experimenting with found objects as musical devices and developing new electronic instruments like the "shozyg" (various amplified objects, mounted inside the covers of volume SHO-ZYG of an encyclopedia) and "porcupine" (thirty small, amplified metal rods mounted on a stand). In that same year, Davies founded the Goldsmith's College Studio of Electronic Music at the University of London.

In 1968 Davies was a founding member of the Music Improvisation Company with Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, and percussionist Jamie Muir (Music Improvisation Company 1968-1971, Incus). He consulted and researched at Middlesex University and the Gemeentemuseum at The Hague. In 1982 Davies helped found the International Confederation for Electroacoustic Music in London. Davies wrote commissioned works for dance and music theatre groups, and pieces specially designed to be performed underground. He performed occasionally in a trio with percussionist Roger Turner and guitarist John Russell, and collaborated with Bailey, Parker, Fred Frith, London Improvisers Orchestra, and even the pop-rock group Talk Talk (Spirit of Eden, 1988, Nettwerk). Principal recordings under Davies' name include Shozyg: Music for Invented Instruments (1982, FMP) and Warming Up With the Iceman (2001, Grob).

At Davies' family's request, donations may be made to North London Hospice, 47 Woodside Avenue, London N12 8TF U.K.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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