Conference paper Open Access

Hugh Davies's Electroacoustic Musical Instruments and their Relation to Present-Day Live Coding Practice: Some Historic Precedents and Similarities


The purpose of this paper is to present the self-built electroacoustic musical instruments of Hugh Davies (1943-2005) to the international live coding community, and to propose points of similarity between Davies’s practice and present-day live coding practice. In the first part of the paper, the context within which Davies’s instrument-building practice developed, in the late 1960s, is outlined, and a number of specific instruments are described. Aspects of Davies’s performance style, repertoire, and the ensembles with which he performed are discussed, as are activities such as instrument-building workshops and public exhibitions of instruments, in which he regularly participated. In the second part of the paper, four areas of connection with present-day live coding practice are suggested. Respectively, these focus upon live coding’s status: (1) as part of a long historic tradition of live electronic music performance (as opposed to electronic music constructed in the studio); (2) as a practice in which the performer him or herself builds the apparatus (whether physical or code-based) through which the music is mediated; (3) as an improvised or semi-improvised art-form in which music is developed in real time, within a framework bounded by material or quasi-material constraints; and (4) as a community of practice with a distinct agenda of promoting understanding through engagement. This paper is presented as a case study in exploring live coding’s historic precedents, and as a contribution toward situating live coding within a broader historical, cultural context.

Files (354.8 kB)
Name Size
354.8 kB Download
All versions This version
Views 8787
Downloads 8988
Data volume 31.6 MB31.2 MB
Unique views 8585
Unique downloads 8483


Cite as