Amplified Objects: Hugh Davies Project Exhibition

Showcasing the experimental musical instruments of Hugh Davies, Anton Mobin, and the participants of the project workshop, in sound and image.

Preview: Friday 13 May, 6-8pm.
Then Weds/Thurs/Fri, 11am-5pm, until 30 June 2016.

Access Space, Sidney Street, Sheffield, S1 4RG.

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Hugh Davies (1943–2005) was an experimental musician and composer well-known for his ad hoc self-built musical instruments. Davies’s instruments were constructed from every-day objects, amplified via contact microphones or magnetic pickups so that the otherwise inaudible tiny sounds could be heard. His first concert instrument—the Shozyg (1968)—included two fret-saw blades, a ball-bearing furniture castor, and a spring, mounted inside the cover of a book. The amplified sounds of these objects created a mesmerising sound-world of metallic crackles and scrapes as Davies played the instrument with fingers or accessories such as screwdrivers and toothpicks.

In March 2016, Access Space hosted a two-week residency with the instrument-builder Anton Mobin. The purpose of the residency was to build a new musical instrument that was both an extension of Anton’s own practice, and a ‘tribute’ to Hugh Davies. The result was a new ‘Prepared Chamber’—a custom-built wooden box fitted with strings and electric motors as well as several contact microphones and magnetic pickups, to which various sound-producing addenda such as springs can be attached, amplified, and played.
Anton Mobin’s new Prepared Chamber had its debut performance at Access Space on Friday, 11 March 2016, in a concert of improvised music by Anton Mobin (Prepared Chamber), Benedict Taylor (viola), Adrian Beentjes (self-designed modular electronic instruments) and Alex McLean (live coding). The concert included four categories of live electronic music: amplified conventional instruments; amplified self-built instruments; modular electronics; and live coding.

At the end of the residency (12–13 March), a weekend workshop was held. Eight participants built their own instruments, using contact microphones and magnetic pickups to amplify the sounds of every-day and found objects. The workshop made full use of the fabrication facilities at Access Space. Eight new Prepared Chambers were built by the workshop participants.

This exhibition showcases the instrument-building work of Hugh Davies, Anton Mobin, and the participants of the instrument-building workshop, in photographs, audio, and video.

The exhibition, instrument-builder residency, and workshop were staged as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council project ‘Hugh Davies: Electronic Music Innovator’, led by Dr James Mooney (University of Leeds) in partnership with the Science Museum, London, and Access Space.