Hywel Davies

composer & sonic artist

This site contains information about the works of composer and sonic artist Hywel Davies.

If you require any further information please direct you queries here.

I am very open to rescoring pieces for performance.

Pieces I'd like to write include: a one act opera for 1-3 singers and small ensemble.


Review of Warsongs at 2015 Cheltenham Internation Music Festival -

Located somewhere between an oratorio and a song cycle, War Songs aims for, and achieves, surprising levels of intimacy, which fit its staunch, unflinching emphasis on the sombre realities of war. The texts—drawing on Anna Akhmatova, Lichtenstein, Ungaretti, August Stramm, Apollinaire and others—mark a progression from an ominous foreboding through blank fatalism into the infinite void. That void, of course, is unknowable, but its wrenching wretchedness was vividly captured by Davies in episodes that, although highly contrasting and variegated, were clearly following the same unstoppable, preordained progression. The music’s recurring lyrical voice became increasingly poignant in the midst of such sombre mournfulness; the third verse of the opening song, evoking Jesus’ words from the cross, extruded from its surroundings, and even more so the third song, ‘Vigil’, where the use of octaves in a chant-like melodic line gave the impression of a secular affirmation of faith. The fourth, ‘Primal Death’ was astonishing to behold, a long, drawn-out ritual with Arvo Pärt-like purity but its every phrase etched with utter humanity (even humanism). A pair of more conventional anthem settings seemed out of place in this context, as Davies tapped into new levels of bleakness to tease out an uncanny kind of wraith-like engagement with reality; in the sixth song, Davies allowed the voices some warmth at their recollections of lost love, only to dismiss them in an instant: “It is a spook.” The latter half progresses to a place that emphasises the immateriality of death and even humanity itself within the bigger picture of life on earth. The work’s epilogue was lovely, all the more so for its ambiguity and ambivalence, indicating new beginnings (reinforced by octaves and fifths) yet also conveying the sense of a spent aftermath. With war continuing to be an ever-present facet of our lives, Hywel Davies’ War Songs is a vital contribution to the ongoing reflections that must surround such conflicts. It is sombre, grief-stricken, full of fear and dread, shot through with occasional flashes of implied light in its darkness, and (if we want it to be) just the faintest glimmer of what might be called hope. Every word and note of this piece rings horribly and utterly true; it’s magnificent.