The Hugh Davies Project, in collaboration with Access Space, seeks an instrument-builder to take up a two-week residency in Sheffield in early 2016.
The aim of the residency is to build an instrument, or instruments, in the style of English experimental musician and instrument-builder Hugh Davies, whose instruments involved the amplification of repurposed every-day objects via contact microphones and magnetic pickups. Two of his instruments—the Shozyg, and the Springboard—are briefly described below (see Background).
Towards the end of the residency, the resident will deliver a workshop exploring the instrument-building, amplification, and performance/playing techniques used. We are also considering the possibility of an on-site exhibition, in which an instrument or instruments could be displayed.
This residency is being hosted by Access Space, Sheffield (http://access-space.org/) as part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project, ‘Hugh Davies: Electronic Music Innovator’, led by Dr James Mooney (University of Leeds) in partnership with Dr Tim Boon (The Science Museum, London). Some further information on the project can be found here: http://hughdaviesproject.wordpress.com.
Hugh Davies (1943–2005) was an experimental musician, musicologist, and composer, who became well-known in avant-garde and improvised music circles for his unique and often playfully eccentric musical instruments, self-built using every-day objects and found, re-purposed materials.
One of Davies’s instruments, called the Shozyg (built in 1968), consisted of three fret-saw blades, a ball-bearing mounted furniture castor, and a small metal spring, mounted inside the covers of a book. (The book happened to be an encyclopaedia covering the alphabetic range of topics from SHO to ZYG—hence the instrument’s name.) These objects were amplified via piezo-electric contact microphones, such that the tiny vibrations—otherwise practically inaudible—could be heard via loudspeakers. It was designed to be played with the fingers, or with the aid of accessories like screwdrivers, small electric motors, toothpicks, etc. A brief video of Davies playing the Shozyg can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPT9A0IsGgs.
From 1970 onwards, Davies built a family of a dozen instruments that he called Springboards. These comprised a number of springs—anything from one to more than twenty—mounted on wooden blockboard in various different arrangements, and amplified via electromagnetic pickups mounted in holes chiselled out of the blockboard. On some of the Springboards the springs were mounted in parallel, rather like the strings on a stringed instrument; in others they were mounted in a ‘fan’ shape. In some of the later Springboards, interesting effects were achieved by connecting springs together in a ‘web’. The Springboards could be plucked, played with accessories, or ‘bowed’ with a single hair from a violin bow.
Davies built over a hundred instruments in his life time. For some further discussion of Davies’s instrument-building practice, its background, and subsequent influence, see: https://hughdaviesproject.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/conference-presentation-on-hugh-daviess-self-built-instruments/.
Refab Space is Access Space’s DIY Fablab and Hackspace. As well as the usual bench top workshop facilities including power tools, saws and drills, Refab Space is also equipped with a 3D printer, precision laser cutter, CNC router, and digital embroidery machine. The idea is that with just a few pieces of technology, one can create a huge diversity physical objects made from a vast number of materials, for an enormous number of different uses. Designs can be created on a computer, although Davies’s own approach was rather more lo-fi than that.
Artists using Refab Space are demonstrating how one can stretch and expand the boundaries of what one can do with these technologies.
You will have experience of designing and constructing sound-producing devices from every-day, found, re-purposed, or otherwise ‘ad hoc’ materials, for use in the performance of experimental, avant-garde, and/or improvised music. Experience in the use (and perhaps construction) of piezo-electric contact microphones and electro-magnetic pickups is also essential.
Prior experience of running workshops with multiple participants, and/or practically focussed teaching is also essential, as the residency will involve running a workshop.
A background in electroacoustic music or experimental sound art would be beneficial, and an open mind as to what kinds of sounds might be considered ‘musical’ is essential; see the video mentioned previously for an idea of the kind of sound-world Davies’s instruments occupied.
Fees and Expenses
Self catering accommodation will be provided, in Sheffield, for the resident, along with a flat fee of £1000. Travel to/from Sheffield at the start/end of the residency will be covered up to a maximum of £400. A separate materials budget of up to £1000 will also be provided.
How to Apply
Please send your application, using the template provided, by email to Jake Harries – – with the subject line “Instrument-Builder Residency”. The preferred format is a fully electronic submission via email (e.g. PDF attachments), though if necessary any physical materials (such as a DVD) can be addressed to: Instrument-Builder Residency, Access Space Network Ltd, Unit 1, AVEC Bldg, 3-7 Sidney St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 4RG, United Kingdom. (Be sure to clearly indicate your name on any physical materials that you send.)
Your application should include:
The deadline for applications is 5.00pm GMT on Friday 20 November 2015.
Short listed candidates will be interviewed via Skype in the week of the 7th December.
All applicants will be notified of the outcome by 21 December 2015. The residency itself is expected to take place from 22nd February to 11th March. (If necessary there may be some flexibility with dates.)
Informal enquiries can be addressed to Dr James Mooney – .
The Arts programme at Access Space is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.