Another Timbre TimHarrisonbre
at11 For Hugh Davies
Hugh Davies - invented instruments
+ Adam Bohman - prepared balalaika & amplified objects
Lee Patterson - amplified objects
Mark Wastell - cello
1. 2 springs + 3 7:56
2. 3 springs + 3 14:38
3. invented instruments + 2 (HD + AB & LP) 10:53
4. bowed diaphragms + 1 (HD + MW) 6:52
5. bowed diaphragms + 3 8:15
6. for hugh davies (AB/LP/MW) 12:48
total time: 62:37
recorded at the church of St.James the Great, Friern Barnet,
north London, January 2008
““In keeping with its adventurous approach, Another Timbre has put out two complementary releases, one a CD, the other a CD-R. Taken together, they make a fine tribute to Hugh Davies, the musician, composer, researcher, electronic pioneer and instrument inventor who died at the start of 2005, aged 61. The limited edition CD-R Hugh Davies - Performances 1969 - 1977 serves two useful purposes. Firstly, it brings six unissued vintage Davies performances into circulation--five solos plus a duet with Richard Orton. As with anything in Davies' (woefully small) discography, the pieces are endlessly intriguing. His ability to conjure a dazzling array of sounds from the most unpromising of sources is simply stunning....
Secondly, the CD-R allows us to hear in isolation the source materials that were used as the stimuli for Bohman, Patterson and Wastell on this CD proper. The music from the CD-R was played to them, they improvised around it, and the resulting music forms the CD. In their different ways, Bohman, Patterson and Wastell all owe a huge debt to Davies; their music would be vastly different without his pioneering work, hence their participation in this tribute. The most striking thing about this CD is that Davies' own playing remains central to the music. The other three players work out from his performance and expand the soundscape, but the agenda is clearly set by Davies own playing. The end result is more akin to a remix of a solo album than to a quartet performance. Only on the closing track, "For Hugh Davies," on which the three improvise without Davies' music as a stimulus, do they come out of his shadow, producing a taut, focused piece. It is indicative of how ahead of his time Davies was that the new piece sounds no more contemporary than anything that precedes it.
As an experimental way of paying tribute to a musician, this must be judged a great success. Doubtless, Davies himself would have heartily approved of the experiment. The results are extraordinary. It is a great CD. It is meaningless to compare these two releases trying to decide which is "better". Both are essential. They complement one another, each throwing light on the other, making the whole greater than the sum of the two.” - John Eyles, All About Jazz
“Totally fantastic. With Hugh Davies' voice as one part in four (or three or two on two tracks), his ratchetiness is subsumed within a lovely blanket of work from Adam Bohman (prepared balalaika/amplified objects), Lee Patterson (amplified objects) and Mark Wastell (unpacking his cello for the occasion). Each piece is something of a gem, including the final one, which is sans Davies, though dedicated to him. Beautiful recording. “ - Brian Olewnick, Just Outside
“When Hugh Davies died in January 2005, the many heartfelt tributes that appeared provided a reminder as to just how influential a musician he was. Davies worked as an assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen during the mid ’60s, helping to produce works like “Mikrophonie I” which amplified the sounds of a large tam-tam as it was struck and brushed by a variety of objects. Expanding on that strategy, Davies made a career of developing a variety of amplified home-made instruments assembled from springs, saw blades, egg slicers, and other household detritus. As part of the first generation of British free improvisers, he was a member of the original incarnation of the Music Improvisation Company and continued to collaborate with Evan Parker, Derek Bailey and like-minded instrument makers like Max Eastley and David Toop while also pursuing performances of contemporary composition.
While his music sounds electronic, in reality it is the result of the hyper-amplification of tiny gestures: the close inspection of timbres and textures. For Hugh Davies is an homage recorded by Adam Bohman, Lee Patterson, and Mark Wastell. Each has been heavily influenced by his work— Bohman and Patterson with their use of contact-miked homemade instruments, and Wastell in his approach to the use of amplification of his cello as sound-source, and more recently, his own work with amplified tam-tam. For this session, the three formed a virtual quartet, improvising alongside recordings which Davies made in the ’70s. The three build on the nuanced spaces of Davies’ pieces, extending them through their expanded timbral spectrum. Wastell makes a rare return to cello. Bohman uses a prepared balalaika and joins Patterson at an arsenal of amplified objects. Davies’ recordings centre around a set of sound sources and dive in to explore their diminutive details, whether amplified springs, bowed diaphragms, or egg slicers. The trio adds gestural layers, picking up on the scrapes and scoured resonances. But there is never a sense of preciousness or hesitancy. After all, Davies was as apt to crash in and disrupt improvisational proceedings as he was to play with delicacy.
Wastell sits out one piece where Bohman and Patterson take a playful tack, accentuating a jagged sonic calligraphy. Wastell “duets” with Davies on one take of “Bowed Diaphragms”, and the tensile energy of his flayed amplified cello builds a bracing arc. The trio stretches out the abraded palette across a wider spectrum in another version of the piece. The session closes out with a trio, minus Davies’ source tapes, making clear the musical debt that these three owe.”
- Michael Rosenstein, Signal to Noise
“In January this year, as an act of homage to and celebration of the music of pioneering instrument builder Hugh Davies, who died on new Year’s Day 2005, Another Timbre label manager Simon Reynell invited improvisors Adam Bohman, Lee patterson and Mark Wastell - all of whom cite Davies as a formative influence on their work - to play along with recordings of Davies he had unearthed from the National Sound Archive. The nmusicians were provided with copies of the original recordings before the session in a North london church, but in the interest of freshness and spontaneity had listened to them only once or twice.
After 15 listens to For Hugh Davies I still feel I’m barely scratching the surface of this at times frustratingly complex assemblage of scrapes, scratches, twangs and tweaks. For the record Bohman is on the left channel, Patterson on the right, and Davies is spread between inside left and inside right. Wastell - on cello here, the instrument he played in a live collaboration with Davies - is in the middle except on bowed diaphragms + 1, where he moves around the stereo space, dragging his instrument across the floor of the church. Even so, it’s often hard to work out exactly who’s doing what, and how it relates to the Davies material... One change that is immediately apparent is how different in character the archive recordings are from the ensemble pieces they spawn. The second half of a rumbunctious mid-70’s Davies performance at Ronnie cott’s takes on a markedly different dynamic in invented instruments + 2, starting out tense and wiry and ending in forlorn disintegration. Long stretches of sustained sonority - there’s rarely anything stable enough to be called a drone here - impose a whole new structure on the material, and the same Davies source recording can and does yiled two surprisingly different results. Compare Wastell’s frighteningly focused cello scrapes on bowed diaphragms + 1 with Bohman’s inscrutable clatter on bowed diaphragms + 3. New London Silence this is not.
For Hugh Davies is an enthralling listen...Bohman, Patterson and Wastell respond to Davies with creativity, intelligence and enthusiasm, but how I wish Davies had been there to answer back.” - Dan Warburton, The Wire
“On For Hugh Davies Adam Bohman, Lee Patterson and Mark Wastell manipulate respectively a prepared balalaika, amplified objects and cello, and bring into play the recordings of the Hugh Davies Performances 1969 – 1977 cd-r, interacting with portions of the early tapes, respecting the essential concept yet at the same time adding their own sauce. The pieces were made using all the possible combinations: Wastell is the Chosen One who's featured in a "solo duet" with the original tape, then we have Bohman/Patterson v. Davies and the rest of the tracks feature all three v. the Old Master until the final trio minus Hugh. The record is an exercise in attentive listening, the timbres meshing in ways that don't really surprise but still manage to rub the listener the right way most of the time. A careful sense of spacing and the ever accurate choice of the moments in which the harsh must replace the faint (and vice versa) represent an impartial testimony of the players' admiration for the craft of this resourceful sonic artisan. It's perhaps best experienced at low volume, ears pricked up to catch infinitesimal vibrations and small cracks amidst the umbrae of a cautious materiality.” - Massimo Ricci. ParisTransatlantic
“For Hugh Davies is an odd amalgam of the dedicatee’s solo work (on tape) and group music by way of three improvisers accompanying and giving the illusion of interacting with Davies’ instruments. Cellist Mark Wastell is ostensibly at the helm of this disc, and he’s joined by electro-acoustic improvisers Lee Patterson and Adam Bohman on six improvisations, five of which include tapes from Performances. Yes, it might seem a bit morbid to have the focus of the dedication in ghostly absence as the trio accompanies Davies’ bowed and plucked springs with guttural string growls, metallic clatter and dog-whistle harmonics. The analog could be found in improvising with pre-recorded tape, which is nothing new in the world of contemporary music. Regardless, whether or not this is an illusory effect, the music does seem like an honest-to-goodness quartet, sounds of indeterminate origin merging and jousting in a tonal world of industrial dark corners and tortured acoustic playing. Though these pieces use the exact performances from the CD-R above (Hugh Davies – Performanmces 1969 -1977), one wouldn’t recognize them, so couched in collectivity they’ve become. In this way, Wastell, Patterson and Bohman are more than just resurrecting—they’re breathing continued life into Hugh Davies’ legacy, whether he’s around to experience it or not.”
~ Clifford Allen, Bagatellen
“The loss of British multi-instrumentalist Hugh Davies in 2005 was a huge one. This superb archival release on the fine, fresh Another Timbre label collects some vintage Davies performances from 1969-1977, and it’s stunning how contemporary they sound, not just in the sense that they are non-idiomatic but in their genuine, unpretentious experimentalism.....
Cut to North London, January 2008. These same recordings (from ‘Performances 1969 - 1977’) were appropriated by Adam Bohman (prepared balalaika and amplified objects), Lee Patterson (amplified objects), and cellist Mark Wastell, and incorporated into an idiom clearly informed and inspired by Davies without being bound by his contributions. Bohman in particular has made his own mark in this particular area of improvisation, and he helps convey a kind of grainy, industrial directness to the material. And Wastell’s small arco noises – I’m actually not used to hearing him play cello these days – blend nicely into this material.
Things sound slightly booming during parts of “3 Strings + 3,” even if balanced by scratchy retreats, but it comes off quite well. Things are most compelling with the swirling drones of “Invented Instruments + 2” (even if it made me wish for Wastell on ). The trio’s personality as a contemporary ensemble emerges even more prominently on the droning final track, where the Davies influence is not so much sublimated as absorbed thoroughly. This is fine stuff, but if forced to pick, it’s hard not to jump immediately for the Davies originals.” - Jason Bivins, Dusted Magazine
“The three British musicians Adam Bohman, Mark Wastell and Lee Patterson play self-built instruments that often use electronics, such as with Bohman’s unconventional ‘prepared balalaika’. Present also in spirit is Hugh Davies, probably the most significant instrument-builder of the past 30 years, who died in 2005. Davies is nonetheless present because the musicians – all friends, pupils or colleagues of his, play along to recordings of his; they improvise live in a church to unpublished solo recordings of Davies from the 1970’s. What separates Davies from many contemporary electro-acoustic musicians is the hand-made character of his music; you can hear the physical exertions of his sound-making. This is because Davies – like his three followers here – creates his music by electronically strengthening the sounds of everyday household objects, such as egg-slicers or wire brushes. His is a music of scratching, scraping and beating. He wants to explore the microcosmic world of small everyday sounds. A work which Bohman, Wastell and Patterson are continuing.
In the new recordings this aspect is pushed slightly into the background, and the music sounds like improvised electronic music often does. Davies put our contemporary world under an acoustic microscope to reveal its concrete, sensory aspects. Davies’ solo recordings are raw, pure and teeming with underground energy. By contrast the music of the current trio is thicker, more modern, polished and refined. This makes them less gripping than the original, but they are still plenty exciting enough.”
- Bruce Carnevale, StadtRevue Kölnmagazin
“Hugh Davies was Stockhausen’s assistant in the mid-60’s, at a very creative phase of the composer’s development. Mikrophonie I (1964) for large tam-tam and microphones, in which Stockhausen transformed the microphone from a passive tool for recording into an active instrument, began a guiding principle for the creative work of the British musician Hugh Davies, who died in 2005. Davies was also concerned with transforming everyday objects into musical instruments, and in bringing into the range of audibility the sounds that were hidden in them. ‘Amplification’ was both philosophy and method for Davies. For Hugh Davies is a live recording from 2008 in a church in London. Here three of the younger generation of improvisers record a hommage to hugh Davies. The basic idea of the concert was that the instrumentalists had to engage in a kind of duel with archive recordings of Davies’, so that they could indeed improvise but their partner remains rigid as a n unchangeable grounding for the music. The noises of this fundamental grounding consist for the most part of crystalline, buzzing, vibrating sounds with a strong resonance, even if they are in fact sometimes being produced from the tiny sounds of an egg-slicer. Against this Bohman and Patterson work in a similar manner, with an arsenal of electro-acoustic apparatus, while Mark Wastell picks up his original instrument, the cello, which he has played so rarely - at least in public - in recent years. A fantastic cd with droning, warm-hearted improvised music that works both microtonally and atmospherically.”
Till Kniola, aufabwegen
from the sleevenotes:
‘for hugh davies’ pays homage to and celebrates the remarkable music of Hugh Davies. It was recorded almost three years to the day after his death in January 2005, and was released in July 2008. Hugh Davies was one of that outstanding first generation of European improvisers who emerged in the mid-1960's. He played in the Music Improvisation Company (along with Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and Jamie Muir), and was a founder-member of the legendary ensemble Gentle Fire, a group who – years ahead of their time – used live electronics and improvisational elements to interpret radical scores by composers such as John Cage and Christian Wolff.
From 1964-66 Hugh worked as an assistant to Karlheinz Stockhausen, during the latter’s most radical and fruitful period as a composer. Hugh assisted on the production of Mikrophonie I, a stunning work based on the amplification of sounds produced on a large tam-tam as it is brushed, struck or stroked by a variety of different objects and materials. In a sense Hugh's music over the next 40 years was a deepening exploration of the soundworld opened up by Mikrophonie I, again usually using metal objects as a sound source, though far smaller ones than Stockhausen's giant tam-tam. Employing what he described as a “do-it-yourself approach to music”, Hugh built instruments from everyday objects such as springs, egg-slicers and fretsaw blades. These were rubbed, scratched, beaten or blown, and the resulting small sounds were amplified. Although thought of as a pioneer of the use of live electronics in improvisation, the only 'electronics' involved in the vast majority of his instruments was amplification.
for hugh davies uses a number of previously unpublished solo improvisations by Hugh dating from the 1970's. At the recording session these improvisations were played back to three musicians who have been deeply influenced by his work: Mark Wastell, Adam Bohman and Lee Patterson. The musicians improvised alongside Hugh's recordings, producing an unusual improvisational situation in which one of the voices was fixed and unable to respond to the playing of the others. The musicians had been given copies of Hugh's pieces three months in advance of the session, but in fact none of them chose to listen to them more than three times, as they wanted to leave plenty of room for spontaneity.
In the recording Mark Wastell plays cello – the instrument with which he emerged as an improviser in the 1990's, but which he has since largely abandoned. He chose to play it here because it was the instrument he'd used on the dozen occasions that he performed with Hugh. Adam Bohman and Lee Patterson worked from tables full of amplified objects similar to those that Hugh employed in his self-built instruments. Both acknowledge Hugh as a major influence, though Adam only played with him on a handful of occasions. Lee never played with Hugh, and the one time they 'met' at a conference, Lee was too awestruck to actually speak to him.
Ten pieces were recorded of which six have been selected, including two very different responses to Hugh’s ‘Music for Bowed Diaphragms’. On the final track the musicians improvise unaccompanied by Hugh's recordings as a joint homage to his memory.
The original recordings of Hugh's music around which the improvisers played are being issued simultaneously on an ‘another timbre’ limited edition cdr: Hugh Davies - Performances 1969 - 1977