Hugh Davies (composer)

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Hugh Seymour Davies (23 April 1943 – 1 January 2005) was a musicologist, composer, and inventor of experimental musical instruments.

Davies was born in Exmouth, Devon, England. After attending Westminster School, he studied music at Worcester College, Oxford from 1961 to 1964. Shortly after he traveled to Cologne, Germany to work for Karlheinz Stockhausen as his personal assistant.[1] For two years, he assembled and documented material for Stockhausen's compositions and was a member of his live ensemble.

From 1968 to 1971 Davies played in a group called the Music Improvisation Company. The group's guitarist Derek Bailey later wrote that "the live electronics served to extend the music both forwards and backwards (...) Davies helped to loosen what had been, until his arrival, a perhaps too rarified approach".[2] He was also a member of the group Gentle Fire, active from 1968 to 1975, which specialised in the realisation of indeterminate and mobile scores, as well as verbally formulated intuitive-music compositions (such as Stockhausen's Aus den sieben Tagen) and in the performance of its own Group Compositions.[3][4]

Davies invented musical instruments that he constructed from household items. Among them was the shozyg, a generic name he used for any instrument housed inside an unusual container. The name is derived from the first of such instruments, which was housed inside the final volume of an encyclopaedia (covering the subjects from SHO– to ZYG–).[5]

From the 1960s onwards Davies made very significant contributions to the documentation of electronic music history, and in 1968 published a catalogue in which he listed - ostensibly - all the works of electronic music ever composed worldwide.[6] It has been argued that, through his research and documentation, Davies characterised electronic music for the first time as a truly international, interdisciplinary field.[7]

Davies was also a member of the Artist Placement Group during the mid-1970s.[8]

Davies had been a part-time Researcher and Lecturer in Sonic Art at the Centre for Electronic Arts, Middlesex University, London from 1999 until the end of his life.[9]


  1. Roberts, David (2001). "Davies, Hugh (Seymour)". In Stanley Sadie & John Tyrrell [eds.] (ed.). New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Macmillan Publishers Ltd. pp. 61–2. ISBN 978-0-333-60800-5.CS1 maint: extra text: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Bailey, Derek (1980). Improvisation: Its nature and practice in music. Moorland Publishing. p. 112.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Davies, Hugh (2001). "Gentle Fire: An Early Approach to Live Electronic Music". Leonardo Music Journal. 11: 53–60. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Emmerson, Simon (1991). "Live Electronic Music in Britain: Three Case Studies". Contemporary Music Review. 6 (1): 179–195. doi:10.1080/07494469100640191.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Roberts, David (1984). "Shozyg". In Stanley Sadie [ed.] (ed.). New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Macmillan Publishers Ltd. pp. 377–8. ISBN 978-0-333-37878-6.CS1 maint: extra text: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Davies, Hugh (1968). Repertoire International des Musiques Electroacoustiques/International Electronic Music Catalog. Paris; Trumansburg, NY: Le Groupe de Recherches Musicales de l'ORTF; The Independent Electronic Music Center, Inc.; MIT Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Mooney, James (2015). "Hugh Davies's Electronic Music Documentation 1961–1968". Organised Sound. 20 (1): 111–121. doi:10.1017/S1355771814000521.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "APG: Artist Placement Group". Tate Gallery. Retrieved 2008-09-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "SONIC ARTS - Staff - Hugh Davies". Retrieved 2013-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>