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Hywel Davies

composer & sonic artist

On this page is information about installations, first in brief and further below in greater detail.

IN BRIEF

Test Polyphony [2013] - Multi-source composer sound installation. Test Polyphony was the culmination of A Place for Art residency for the National Trust at Mottisfont, Hampshire.

To-ing, fro-ing [2012] - Live performance, composer, site-specific sound installation commissioned by b-side multimedia festival 2012.

The Watcher [2011] - Turf piece commissioned by the National Trust and installed at Mottisfont, Hampshire.

Sound Tubes [2010] - Wind-powered sound installation, commissioned by b-side multimedia festival 2010.

Gwair gwyrdd, gwyrdd o gartref (The green, green grass of home) [2008] - Turf print installation - Commissioned by SAFLE and Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru.   Installed at the 2008 National Eisteddfod, Pontcanna Fields, 1-8 August 2008.

Music for Libraries [2005] - Multi-source sound installation commissioned by Kent County Council for Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope (Library, Art Gallery and Museum)in Sevenoaks, Kent.  

Music for Open Plan Offices [2005] - Desktop phone ringtone installation – commissioned by Arts Councilk England for their internal phone system

Basic set [2005]

9PIN Data Collection Project [2004-5]

Columbia livia [2003] - This work is a partial restaging of Pastoral

Pastoral [2003] - Multi-source, site-specific sound installation commissioned by New Greenham Arts (Newbury) and installed in the disused control tower at USAF base Greenham.

Salva me [2001] – multi-source, site-specific sound installation. A Year of the Artist Residency and commission from Bath International Festivals. Installed in a disused chapel and adjacent architectural salvage retail space.

Miss Prentice Meets Josef Albers at Francey's Easter Brunch [2000] – sound installation to accompany an exhibition of works by American Abstractionists. Tate Gallery Liverpool/SPNM

Waldscenen [1999] – multi-source, site-specific sound installation commissioned by ArtSway as part of their ‘The World of Our Landscape' series.

Sub rosa [1996] – partial restaging of Soundings

Soundings [1995] - multi-source, site-specific sound installation. Bath International Festivals/SPNM

On this page is information about installations, first in brief and further below in greater detail.

IN GREATER DETAIL

Test Polyphony [2013] - Multi-source composer sound installation. Test Polyphony was the culmination of A Place for Art residency for the National Trust at Mottisfont, Hampshire.

To-ing, fro-ing [2012] - Live performance, composer, site-specific sound installation commissioned by b-side multimedia festival 2012.

The Watcher [2011] - Turf piece commissioned by the National Trust and installed at Mottisfont, Hampshire. This was one of a number of 'Angel' pieces installed in the ground of Mottisfont Abbey. Mine was inspired by a photograph of the indentation of someone who fell out of a plane during the First World War, wondering what impression an angel would give if it fell to earth. Firstly would the wings make an impression on the ground, well, no is th answer. The body would fall back first and so the heaviest part of the body (the torso) would hit the ground first, the wings wold hit the ground last with least force. Then I thought, would the angel have wings at all – the answer is probably not. No mention in the bible about angels with wings. Seraphim and Cherubim yes, but they are not the only type of angel (see also in Revelation). The Watchers were angels that were sent to watch over humans, but once they got to earth they ended up mating with the humans and passing on lots of knowledge that otherwise would have been learned by the humans over time. These are the angels of Daniel (iv 3, 17, 23) and 1 Enoch (6-36) (where some of the angels are listed by name, including the wisdom they passed on – I have my own favourites...).

Sound Tubes [2010] - Wind-powered sound installation, commissioned by b-side multimedia festival 2010.

Gwair gwyrdd, gwyrdd o gartref (The green, green grass of home) [2008] - Turf print installation - Commissioned by SAFLE and Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru.   Installed at the 2008 National Eisteddfod, Pontcanna Fields, 1-8 August 2008. Neither a composition nor sound piece, Gwair gwyrdd, gwyrdd o gartref (The green green grass of home) is about ambiguity - the same thing meaning different things to different people.   “Are you thinking in Welsh or English?” could be another title for this piece.   The piece is a collection of words that although spelled exactly the same in Welsh and English have very different meanings in each language.   The order in which they were arranged suggested English usage (but then I am English), however making the piece at the National Eisteddfod allowed other outcomes.   So for example the English word that is spelled 'afraid' means 'unnecessary' in Welsh ('ofnus' is the Welsh word for 'afraid'); 'does' means 'there isn't' in Welsh ('gwneud' is the Welsh word for 'does'); 'cod' means 'code' in Welsh ('penfras' is the Welsh word for 'cod'); 'faint' means 'how much' in Welsh ('llewyg' is the Welsh word for 'does') and so on. In this piece images are made in the grass by depriving it of sunlight (by the use of pegged-down hardboard), and so reducing its production of chlorophyll.   When the hardboard is lifted (after about 2-3 weeks) the grass underneath has either gone very pale green, or has gone altogether.   I first encountered this technique of grass printing in the work of Bruce Allan, and I am grateful to him for his help and advice during the making of this work.

Music for Libraries [2005] - Multi-source sound installation commissioned by Kent County Council for Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope. Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope is a public building housing a Library, Art Gallery and Museum (Clay Architects) in Sevenoaks, Kent.   This multi-source permanent sound installation features composed music for two ensembles: viola, 2 cellos and double bass; and 3 alto flutes and bass flute.   This sound in held on CDs and played to a total of 10 speakers embedded in the fabric the building.   Due to the nature of the buildings use, the sound in this work had to be very discreet.   This determined the use of very ‘rounded' and organic sounds (stringed instruments and very low flutes).   The location and embedding of speakers, equipment and cable routing was developed in close consultation with the architect.

Music for Open Plan Offices [2005] - Desktop phone ringtone installation – commissioned by Arts Council England for their internal phone system. In September 2004 Hywel Davies was appointed Lead Artist to work with Niall McLaughlin Architects on the relocation of Arts Council England South West to new offices in Exeter.   His role was to identify and research art intervention in the workplace.   The staff were extensively consulted about the nature of the interventions, and two principal themes emerged: that the interventions should not be static, rather they should change over time; and that the intervention should, in some way, ‘bring the outside insiide'.   The resulting three interventions are: wall works hung in the workplace drawn from the Arts Council Collection and curated by the staff working in the office (changing every 6 months); manipulated weather radar data shown on a 4m x 3m rear-projected screen in the reception area, supplied on a live feed by the Met Office and changing every 15 minutes throughout the day; and a new sonic work for the Arts Council of England phone system to be launched in Autumn 2005.   Music for Open Plan Offices , the work for the phone system, entailed the composition of 55 ringtones for desktop phones.   Staff select their own ringtones as individuals or as team, and the piece is ‘played' as phone calls come through to a phone.   With many phone calls overlapping in open plan offices, the result is am aleatoric work (a work of controlled chance) on a grand scale, in which the performers (people telephoning Arts Council England) are mostly unaware of their role as performers.

Basic set [2005] - Group show - Day-to-day Data. As part of this touring exhibition (from Angel Row Gallery in Nottingham), I contributed a sonic installation while the show was at the Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth (September 2005).   Basic Set is one of a number of installations that have grown out of a 9PIN Data Collection commission from SCAN - collecting the same repertoire of sounds in each SCAN location.   The principal piece to come out of 9PIN, awaiting staging by SCAN, involves the extended abstraction of data beyond the found sound.  Each location where water sounds were collected was carefully noted on OS maps, and so acquiring a six-figure grid reference.  From this data, new musical data (a pitch row) was derived by the methodology of total serialism.  In the large-scale piece the music that is derived from each location is played on a different instrument. This isn't the way I normally compose (and therefore doesn't sound like my work!) and in order to imprint my creative personality on what is simply data, a further manipulation took place.   Basic Set is, if you like, an overture to this larger piece.  It presents water sounds collected at each location superimposed with the pitch material in its most basic form derived from the grid reference of that particular recording location.

9PIN Data Collection Project [2004-5] SCAN (Southern Collaborative Artists Network) The 9PIN data collection project was part of the first round of commissions from SCAN (Southern Collaborative Artists Network).  The project involved the collection of found audio material from nine locations across the south of England (Sway, Southampton, Banbury, Milton Keynes, Newbury, Newport (Isle of Wight), Salisbury, Poole, Portsmouth).  In each location the same repertoire of material was collected, ranging from train stations, clocks and water to counting games and humming.  This raw audio data forms part of an archive with SCAN.  Pieces have already been made from this data and have been shown at Quay Arts Centre, Isle of Wight (February 2005) and Aspex Gallery (April 2005).

Columbia livia [2003] - This work is a partial restaging of Pastoral. Wapping Hydraulic Power Station , London, November 2003 (SPNM 60th Anniversary)/ Dokkhuset Trondheim Norway (fri-resonans Festival 2006)/ i-DAT- Plymouth (Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 2007)

Pastoral [2003] - Multi-source, site-specific sound installation commissioned by New Greenham Arts (Newbury) and installed in the disused control tower at USAF base Greenham. astoral was an installation that resulted from a period as Artist in Residence at New Greenham Arts.  The sonic installation was shown in the former control tower of the former USAF airbase at Greenham Common.  The installation, over three floors, reflected on the unsettling nature of Greenham Common's past (the airbase that stored nuclear cruise missiles and was the focus for the British nuclear disarmament movement), and the prospects for its future (being returned to common land and ancient commoners' rights restored).  It featured interviews with commoners, the sound of people sleeping and original music performed by local amateur music makers.   The interviews with comers were installed in the room in the control tower that overlooks the runway.   This was to emphasise that although there is a very strong taste from recent history (and this is inescapable by the nature of the building) the site has a 1000-year-old and continuing history.   The sound of people sleeping was used in the upper control room, because during the height of the protests against cruise missiles both pro- and anti-nuclear campaigners used the phrase ‘so we can sleep safely in our beds' to emphasise their point.

Salva me [2001] – multi-source, site-specific sound installation. A Year of the Artist Residency and commission from Bath International Festivals. Salva me was a sonic installation installed at two sites during the 2001 Bath International Festival.  The first location was Walcot Reclamation Yard, a retail business specialising in selling reclaimed architectural fabric from demolished buildings.  The second location was the Walcot Mortuary Chapel, a small funeral chapel that is no longer in use.  Salva me used the sounds of pigeons collected in Bath that were manipulated and then played back at random (Walcot Mortuary Chapel), and music composed for local amateur music makers (Walcot Reclamation).   The sound of pigeons was used for two reasons: first because of their abundancy at the site; and second because the pigeon and/or dove has a symbolic significance across a number of cultures as the creature that takes or helps the soul from one world to the next.

Miss Prentice Meets Josef Albers at Francey's Easter Brunch [2000] – sound installation to accompany an exhibition of works by American Abstractionists. Tate Gallery Liverpool/SPNM. This installation was made for an SPNM event at the Liverpool Tate, and was installed in a gallery showing an exhibition of works by American abstractionists.  It featured Rhodes Suitcase Piano, and the reciting of a text by Josef Albers - Calm down, what happens, happens mostly without you .   Restagings: Danscenen, Copenhagen (2003); the launch of SCAN (Southampton City Art Gallery, 2004); Dokkhuset , Trondheim, Norway (2006).

Waldscenen [1999] – multi-source, site-specific sound installation commissioned by ArtSway as part of their ‘The World of Our Landscape' series. Waldscenen was commissioned by ArtSway as part of their ‘The World of Our Landscape' series.  The work looked at attitudes towards the countryside and took as its starting point Schumann's Romantic view of the forest found in Waldscenen Op.52).  The work consisted of four rooms: the first ( Eintritt/Freundliche/Abschied [Entrance/Pleasing Landscape/Farewell] ) was hung with 2m long green tree protection tubes (Tuley Tubes) that gave the impression of an ersatz forest - 16 of these tubes contained speakers that played sound and interviews collected in the New Forest; the next ( Jäger auf der Lauer/Jagdlied [Hunter in Ambush/Hunting Song] ) was a room in total darkness whose floor was covered with leaf mould and leaves to give the impression of the forest at night - there was newly composed choral music playing very quietly in this room; the next room ( Vogel als Prophet [Bird as Prophet] )  was a living room decorated with wallpaper and furnishings that made use of woodland motifs - playing from a radio in this room was a fake radio station with newly composed and recorded jazz tunes based on the original Schumann; the final room ( Einsame Blumen/Verrufene Stelle [Solitary Flowers/Ill-renowned Locality] ) was painted yellow and featured new music written for cimbalom and ambient sound recorded close to Chernobyl - this room also contained dried flowers collected in the same location.

Sub rosa [1996] – partial restaging of Soundings (see below)

Soundings [1995] - multi-source, site-specific sound installation. Bath International Festivals/SPNM. Soundings was a collaborative work with artists Russell Mills and Iain Walton.  The location for Soundings was a disused bonded warehouse below what was Green Park Station in Bath.  This space contained 38 chambers, approximately 2.5m square and one long central corridor.  The piece reflected the origins of the city of Bath as a place to come for cleansing and healing.  The sound installed here featured the super-low bass voice of Adrian Hutton and music written for medieval harp and the organ of Bath Abbey.