Upcoming Concerts and Workshops: Sounds Heard

Sounds Heard: Avant-garde, experimental, electronic and improvised musics and workshops celebrating the work of Hugh Davies.

UPDATE: Videos of these concerts can be viewed here!

Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 October 2015

Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall
School of Music, University of Leeds
Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

The weekend will include performances by celebrated free improviser Steve Beresford, vocalist Phil Minton, sound artist Aleks Kolkowski, members of the Edinburgh-based ensemble Grey Area, and live coding of dot-matrix printers by Alex McLean. There will be an analogue disc-cutting and vocal workshop with Phil Minton and Aleks Kolkowski, and a workshop and film-screening on Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie I.

Schedule of events and how to book workshop places – see below!

Steve_Beresford-9    Phil_Minton

(images: left Steve Beresford, right Phil Minton)

Among Davies’s pieces to be performed will be his experimental music-theatre works ‘The Birth of Live Electronic Music’ and ‘Mobile with Differences’, his late-sixties live electronic and vocal pieces ‘Voice’ and ‘Not to be Loaded with Fish’, his 1980s dot-matrix printer piece ‘Printmusic’, and ‘Galactic Interfaces’ for self-built instruments, tape, and live electronics.

kolkowski_h-o-mono    greyarea-marksummers

(images: left Aleks Kolkowski, right Grey Area)

Many of these pieces haven’t been performed publicly in decades; come and hear/see them performed by some of the world’s leading performers of experimental and improvised musics, many of whom have worked with Davies during their distinguished careers.


(image: Alex McLean)


Twitter: Follow @DaviesProject #hughdavies

Schedule of Events

Saturday 17 October
2:00pm Disc-cutting and vocal workshop (booking essential)
5:00pm Pre-concert talk and screening of Mikrophonie I
6:00pm Concert: Grey Area, Alex McLean, and guests perform music by Hugh Davies

Sunday 18 October
1:00pm Mikrophonie I workshop (booking essential)
3:30pm Pre-concert talk
4:00pm Concert: Steve Beresford + Phil Minton with Aleks Kolkowski and Sean Williams perform music by Hugh Davies, Steve Beresford, and improvised sets

The workshops are free but booking is essential as places are limited. To book a place at one of the workshops please email Caitlin Mockridge – mcchm@leeds.ac.uk – stating which workshop(s) you would like to book. The concerts and pre-concert talks are free and do not need to be booked.

A more detailed schedule of events, including descriptions of the workshops and concert running orders, will be published very soon – please check again in a few days.


  • Facebook event: click here
  • Concert series webpage: click here 
  • Directions to the venue: click here 

Review: Grey Area Performs Hugh Davies, Stockhausen, Christian Wolff and Owen Green

The first concert formally attached to this project took place on Saturday 23 May 2015 at the Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds. Grey Area – an Edinburgh-based ensemble specialising in semi-improvised and experimental musics – performed a programme of music by Hugh Davies, as well as a range of other pieces related to Davies’s practice as a performer and instrument-builder. Videos of the performance can be viewed by following the links at the bottom of this post.


  • Stockhausen – Verbindung (Connection) from Aus den sieben Tagen
  • Hugh Davies – Music for a Single Spring
  • Christian Wolff – Edges
  • Hugh Davies – Quintet
  • Owen Green – Neither the Time nor the Energy
  • Stockhausen – Intensität (Intensity) from Aus den sieben Tagen


The evening began with a pre-concert talk in which the pieces on the programme were introduced and explained, and – in the second part of the talk – discussed with two of the ensemble’s members. Set against the background of Davies’s work as Stockhausen’s assistant in the mid-1960s, Davies’s self-built instruments, and the interpretation of graphic and text-based scores, were central themes of the discussion.

A video recording of the pre-concert talk can be viewed by following the link at the bottom of this page.


Davies’s own Quintet is a piece in which the majority of sounds heard are produced via microphone feedback. Four performers hold microphones close to loudspeakers, one in each corner of the room. This causes acoustic feedback, which is controlled by a fifth performer, at the centre of the room, who also has a solo in the middle of the piece.




Davies’s Music for a Single Spring is a semi-improvised piece in which, as suggested by the title, all of the sounds are produced by a single metal spring, heavily amplified using magnetic pickups not unlike those found in an electric guitar. In this performance a stereo recording of the piece, originally performed by Davies himself, was diffused via six loudspeakers surrounding the audience.

Three of the pieces on the programme were pieces regularly performed by Davies’s own ensemble, Gentle Fire, in the 1960s and 70s. Stockhausen’s Verbindung and Intensität – both from a set of fifteen pieces entitled Aus den sieben Tagen – have text scores, rather like poems, which the players interpret. Wolff’s Edges, on the other hand, has a graphic score comprising a series of symbols, each with a particular musical meaning. Unlike a conventional musical score, however, the symbols in Wolff’s score are not to be interpreted as direct prescriptions of what should be played. Instead, they are supposed to represent the outer extremes of the musical material; in a sense, then, they give an indication of that which should not played, rather than what should. In the Stockhausen pieces, and in Wolff’s Edges, all of the players work simultaneously from the same score.

Owen Green’s piece Neither the Time nor the Energy was the only new piece on the programme. Played on an amplified cardboard box bowed with a double-bass bow, the piece puts one in mind of Hugh Davies’s many idiosyncratic self-built instruments, which also tended to be constructed from every-day objects and household nicknacks, amplified to reveal their latent musical possibilities.


Along with Green’s cardboard box (Green is a member of the ensemble) the other instruments used in the performance were violin (Emma Lloyd), laptop (Dave Murray-Rust), double bass (Armin Sturm) and modular synthesizer (Sean Williams). Music for a Single Spring was diffused by James Mooney.

Further information about the pieces, and how they relate to Hugh Davies’s work, can be found in the programme and in the pre-concert talk (links below).

The concert was well-received, with positive comments from both in-person and online viewers. (The concert and talk were streamed live online.) A post-concert survey revealed that many audience members had been fascinated by the relationship between improvised and scored music. One audience member commented: “I had never seen people playing to a score in the context of improvisation.” Green’s use of a cardboard box as a musical instrument also appears to have been a highlight. Another audience member remarked: “I’d never seen a cardboard box being used in a concert like that before. I especially liked it in the Stockhausen.” Almost 40% of audience members responding to the survey commented that this was not the kind of music that they would typically listen to. Gratifyingly, however, all of those audience members also said that they would consider attending a similar concert in the future. This suggests that the Hugh Davies Project might have a role to play in bringing experimental musics to a wider audience.

The next planned event is a weekend of concerts to be held on 17 and 18 October 2015 at University of Leeds. Updates will be forthcoming via this website.


  • Concert programme (PDF): click here.
  • Pre-concert talk (video): click here.
  • Concert, part 1 (video): click here.
  • Concert, part 2 (video): click here.
  • Storify with some Tweets and pictures from the concert: click here.
  • Previous post advertising the concert: click here.

Note: If you watch the concert/talk online (or indeed if you attended the event itself) you are invited to complete the brief audience survey, designed to assess the value of this research project to a wider public. Your response will be warmly appreciated. The survey can be accessed by clicking here.

Image credits: Mark Summers, Colin Bradburne, Tenley Martin

Upcoming concert: Hugh Davies, Stockhausen, Christian Wolff, Owen Green

Grey Area Performs: Hugh Davies, Stockhausen, Christian Wolff, Owen Green

Saturday 23 May 2015, pre-concert talk 6.30pm, concert 7.30pm

Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall
School of Music, University of Leeds
Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9JT

Video stream: http://livestream.com/uol/davies-stockhausen-wolff-green

Grey Area

A rare opportunity to hear performances of works by Hugh Davies and other avant-garde repertoire from the late 1960s. The programme will include Davies’s Quintet (1967-8) and Music for a Single Spring (1975), Verbindung (Connection) and Intensität (Intensity) from Stockhausen’s Aus den sieben Tagen (From the Seven Days, 1968), Wolff’s Edges (1968), and a more recent work by Owen Green for amplified cardboard box. Many of these works were performed by Davies’s own ensemble, Gentle Fire, in the 1970s. On this occasion they will be performed by Grey Area, an Edinburgh-based ensemble specialising in the use of live electronics and acoustic instruments.

There will be a pre-concert talk at 6.30pm; the performance itself will begin at 7.30pm.

Free admission.

About the Ensemble

Grey Area was formed in 2011, with an initial focus on Stockhausen’s ‘Intuitive Music’ works Aus den sieben Tagen and Für Kommende Zeiten. The group has gone on to work with a range of structured improvisations by composers such as Christian Wolff, Cornelius Cardew, Hugh Davies, and Tim Souster, as well as free improvisation and original and collaborative pieces and processes by members of the ensemble. One of the group’s principal interests is in distributed creativity, and the ideas of authorship, agency, and emergence are never far away from Grey Area’s music practice. Regular players are Shiori Usui, Nikki Moran, Armin Sturm, Owen Green, Emma Lloyd, and Sean Williams, with guest players including Sue MacKenzie and Dave Murray-Rust.


  • Video stream: click here
  • Facebook event: click here 
  • Concert series webpage: click here 
  • Directions to the venue: click here 

Photograph: Yao Hui

Electronic Music in Britain in the 1950s and 60s: James Mooney and Monty Adkins in Conversation

In February 2015, a concert of tape music works by Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram was staged as part of the Electric Spring Festival at University of Huddersfield. The concert was preceded by a public conversation between the curator of the concert, Dr James Mooney, and one of the festival’s artistic directors, Prof Monty Adkins. A complete recording of this pre-concert discussion is now available via SoundCloud: click here.


The conversation addressed the context of electronic music in Britain in the 1950s and 60s and included discussion of Hugh Davies, his self-built instruments and – in particular – his International Electronic Music Catalog. The tools and techniques of electronic music production in the 50s and 60s were discussed, as was the institutional context of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, where both Derbyshire and Oram worked.

While simultaneously extolling the challenges and contingencies of archival research, Mooney and Adkins discussed the work of some of the key figures in British electronic music history. Oram’s philosophy of electronic music, as expounded in her book An Individual Note: Of Music, Sound and Electronics, was briefly explored, as was her creation of the novel Oramics synthesizer, currently on display at the Science Museum, London (some slides from the exhibition were shown during the talk). Among Derbyshire’s activities to be discussed were her project with David Vorhaus, White Noise, and her work with Brian Hodgson and Peter Zinovieff under the name of Unit Delta Plus. Others working in electronic music in Britain in the 1950s and 60s, such as Roberto Gerhard and Tristram Cary, were also mentioned.

Opening the conversation to questions from the floor revealed a wider range of topics for discussion. What would Delia Derbyshire have made of present-day electronic music making technologies had she been around to see them? Is it, by comparison, ‘too easy’ to make electronic music these days? Addressing these questions led to a broader discussion of how the advent of electronic technologies radically shifted compositional horizons post 1945. Other topics addressed during audience discussions included gender politics, Oram’s secretiveness around the development of the Oramics machine, and the emergence of the British free improvisation scene out of electronic music activities of the 1950s and 60s.

From the conversation and ensuing discussion there emerged a picture of a peculiarly British approach to electronic music: individuals working without institutional support, whose creations – both in terms of music-making machines and compositions – bore little resemblance to their continental European counterparts.


  • Pre-concert discussion on SoundCloud: click here.
  • An article about the concert itself, on this website: click here.
  • Archive materials on the Electric Spring website: click here.